By: Nick Askam
I think everyone should know that I’m a huge Woody Allen Fan. I know that’s a problem for a lot of people, but I truly love his movies. From Annie Hall to Manhattan, I’ve just been so fixated on his films. That is probably one of the many reasons that I liked Café Society so much. I find it to be one of Kristen Stewart’s best performances and once again cements Steve Carell as both a funny and serious actor. Jesse Eisenberg also played a great role in this film, and Allen wrote one of the best characters for him. In the end, the product was a movie that was both powerful and provocative.
Café Society is a film that takes place in the 1930’s and is about a guy named Bobby Stern (Jesse Eisenberg) on his way out to Hollywood to try to make it big. He leaves his New York home to go try to get a job from his uncle, Phil Stern (Steve Carell), who is already very successful in the film industry. On one of Bobby’s first days, he is shown around town by Phil’s beautiful secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Vonnie shows Bobby what lies in Hollywood and details why she would hate living in luxury like what is seen everywhere in town. Eventually, Bobby falls for Vonnie, only to be told that she is seeing someone secretly – who so happens to be Phil.
Café Society also has one of my favorite B-side (“flip-side”) stories in all of 2016. It is that of Bobby’s brother, Ben (Corey Stoll), who is a gangster in New York, and his exploits are paired with the rather calm goings on in Bobby’s life. Ben’s character is almost the idea of what every cool older brother was supposed to be. He was a tough guy that brought in all the girls, like Veronica (Blake Lively) and other gorgeous women. Ben is what every tough person in the 30’s wanted to be. His character was almost this tragedy of how being whoever the hell you wanted had its consequences. He wasn’t the moral center of the film, but his character was so easy to empathize with at the end of the day. Stoll’s performance was spectacular and is what made the character so much more interesting.
Romance movies don’t usually catch my eye. Especially not love triangles that stay in the family. I think, however, Allen’s movie has more to say than it’s just a love triangle. In the same way that Ben has flaws, I think Bobby has flaws that aren’t as noticeable. For one, he’s kind of a weird dude. He doesn’t have a lot of friends and doesn’t have huge social circles until he’s blossomed into this outgoing guy. He’s practically forced into that role, though. In the way that Vonnie opens him up to the world, she’s a metaphor for something we imagine to be perfect but can’t have. Phil, on the other hand, is the necessary evil that we all have in our lives. He was who got Bobby the initial job and lets him have a taste of what he knew he couldn’t have. Throughout the film, Phil is introducing Bobby to countless opportunities, and it’s almost fitting in its irony that the one thing that Bobby wants the most, he can’t have. I don’t know if this is how Allen intended his film to be interpreted, but it’s my way of seeing Café Society.
The performances were great. Although I found the story to be captivating, this would not have been something that would’ve caught my attention if it weren’t for the wonderful acting in this film. There was something about each performance that left you wanting more from each character. The way that they interacted with each other and fed off of each other’s energy made me want to watch this film again and again. The cast worked so well together and made the film feel realistic. There were definitely times where I had to remind myself that these people weren’t real. I felt that each one of them was their own person by the way that they looked into each other’s eyes. There was more underneath each initial character, and it made a second viewing almost necessary.
Overall, I understand why someone wouldn’t want to watch this movie or why they thought it was average. I took something away that was completely different, and I probably looked a little too far into it to find some far away thought. But, in the end, if a film can make me think about it that way, I think it’s well deserving of a good rating and definitely worth the time and energy put into it. I was floored by this film and will definitely see it many more times in the near future. You can check it out on Amazon Prime.
Short Review: Love triangles suck. Thankfully, this movie does not.