Wednesday, February 22, 2017

CAFE SOCIETY (2016)



Written & Directed By: Woody Allen 
Cinematography By: Vittorio Storaro 
Editor: Alisa Lepselter 


Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carrell, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Anna Camp, Richard Portnow, Paul Schneider, Jeannie Berlin, Sheryl Lee, Saul Stein, Tony Sirico, Don Stark, Elissa Piszel 


In 1930's Hollywood, the powerful agent, Phil Stern, is attending a party and receives a phone call from his sister living in New York. She asks for a job to her son and Phil's nephew, Bobby, who decided to move to Hollywood. Three weeks later Phil schedules a meeting with Bobby and decides to help him. He asks his secretary Veronica "Vonnie" to hang around with Bobby, showing him the touristic places. Bobby immediately falls in love with Vonnie, but she tells that she has a boyfriend, a journalist that travels most of the time. However, Vonnie's boyfriend is indeed a married man that is also in love with her and soon she has to make a choice between her two loves.

As much of a woody Allen fan that I am. I believe that might work against this film and for any audience member who is. As the film feels so cliche from him. You have seen it before from him and probably better.

The film tries to be more of a love story of success and longing.

The characters aren't that interesting. They seem more idealized version of characters that he has written before. As the young main stars are wide eyed and have all these dreams of the future and then the world comes in and makes them wake up. Though they still end up successful they still have a longing.

The movie is filmed beautifully almost like a time period dream but it makes no impact. You constantly feel like you have seen it before. As it feels constantly familiar

It feels like a film where the director's heart is not in it. It feels like he was going through the motions of the story. While showing an admiration for the period. That feels like he had some initial ideas that became watered down with ones he had had before. Making the film feel either like a cut, paste and match job or like his greatest hits that weren't great to begin with.

If anything this film feels like filler as he knew he had to film something and this is what he came up with. It all comes up short in dialogue, characters, motivations, story. Nothing here feels distinct and has the feeling of Deja Vu.

The film does have a RADIO DAYS feeling as director Woody Allen doesn’t appear on screen but narrates the film. Though this film doesn’t feel as personal but does deal with the romanticized classic time period

Worst of all the movie is rarely hilarious or even funny. As the film seems like it is supposed to be and instead come off more as lighthearted dramatic romance.

Maybe this is his version of a romance with very little actual heart or passion. Meant to be more intellectual. By the end the film feels more a freestyle of two people who are young lovers perfect for one another who do a different direction and have to play with the cards they have been dealt.

Only at the end does the film pick a place to show power and strength. Though it doesn't really deserve it. As all that came before was so weak it had no choice but to be strong because it finally took charge and direction.

The film feels like he wanted a story to go with the ending but feels so lightweight even with all the set-up it offers.

You would think Jessie Eisenberg would be a perfect fit for this film, role and director. Somehow he passes but it doesn't entirely work. (Still surprised Matthew Broderick has never been in a woody Allen film. He would have been really good in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY. No offense to John Cusack who was good in the role)

For all the cast Corey Stoll is the only actor who gives an interesting performance even though it is mostly a stereotype. His character is the only one who stays committed and fun throughout. Just as he was in his performance as Ernest Hemmingway in Woody Allen's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.
Although Parker Posey as a blonde is a close second

Steve Carell replaced Bruce Willis after filming started. Woody Allen fired Willis after he and the cast tired of his behavior and inability to remember his lines. Bruce Willis might have been more memorable in the role as he doesn’t seem the type to be appearing in a Woody Allen film. It would have been a change of pace for him. For once being more verbal in a film. Not that Steve Carrell does a bad job.It just feels like a more straight performance with nothing special about it as far as performance or even energy.

The film is almost critic proof to a degree. As it seems lauded only because of who made it and it fits in to his wheelhouse. As the film feels safe because of his reputation and resume. Where as if a more novice director has made it. It would be noted for it's nostalgic aspects and for it's art direction, but would be judged harsher. Though also As we are used to woody Allen films take this as more of the same only with a lighter touch.

Though the film does deal with the hidden desires of life. Always longing even if you have all you could ask for there is always a feeling of wanting more. Something to strive for.

Woody Allen said he wanted the film’s structure to resemble a novel and you can tell as things come up and are based more on character than action. Though the inner lives of the character are talked about but rarely shown. That might be why this film feels like it is missing a certain spark. That might have been there more on the page. Though it also explains the end a bit more

Another weakness of the film is that it seems so busy trying to showcase the era and characters that it never takes a point to stop and let us rest it keeps moving more than it needs to and becomes meandering.

It's not all bad, but will Leave you expecting better and more. Is that really possible for a director who has made so many movies and contributes to make one every year?


Grade: C-

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