Café Society is a real journey through the Hollywood dream of the 1930’s film industry and the lovers caught on the coat-tails of the romanticism of the moment. While it didn’t completely sweep me away, in an intoxicating sense, lead performances from Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg truly glisten in the era and give the story a deeply poignant touch as we move through memories and observe the decisions people make.
Eisenberg plays Bobby, a New York kid who’s bored with the East coast life and wants to see if he can test himself over in Hollywood. The reason he chooses this life isn’t just the desire of a ‘better’ life but also because his Uncle Phil, played smartly by Steve Carell, is a big-time agent and he’s hoping he can help get him in the right circles and onto something more exciting.
While Bobby doesn’t fall for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, he does meet Vonnie (Stewart) and instantly falls in love but there’s a problem because although she really starts to fall for Bobby, she’s also in love with another man… his Uncle. While initially the connection isn’t made that they’re both in love with the same girl, a series of events ultimately leads Bobby to discover the truth and in turn he ends up going home to New York. Upon returning there, he meets a new love in Veronica (Blake Lively) and over time sets a life up for himself and forgets about the past, until it’ll eventually come back around again.
While we move through the history of the 1930’s scenes, all beautifully re-created and filmed, Allen continues throughout to offer up insight to the different worlds occurring all around and these are where I really connected, due to the fascination caused by being transported back into a time that’s long gone and as with everything Woody Allen there’s an ensemble cast, but much like Blue Jasmine, this film is more just about our lead characters.
Early on in Café Society, Eisenberg channels classic Woody to perfection but those stages are all about Bobby’s self-uncertainty and that element in time fades as the character finds his own story. Kristen Stewart plays it openly and with heart, such as her character desires simplicity and honesty and despite her initially playing off two possibly different relationships, she’s deeply likeable and intriguing. The co-starring team of Carell, Lively, Ken Stott, Corey Stoll and the ever awesome Parker Posey also bring to life the world around them.
Café Society effortlessly flows exactly how you’d expect and one part really stands out for me as a perfect microcosm of events. There’s a very specific, and important, scene in the conclusion of everything as Allen sets the camera on Jesse’s character and it brings forth an absolute reflection of everything we’ve seen. Not only is it deftly poignant but as it merges with a cut to Stewart’s Vonnie, it exquisitely represents the process of time and choice.