Jesse Eisenberg’s Bobby is a natural Woody Allen avatar in Café Society, and while he nails the voice patterns and body language, his greatest achievement is the ability to maintain the gulf of unbelievability that has always existed between Woody and his leading ladies.
When Bobby moves from the Bronx to work with his uncle Phil (Steve Carrell) in Hollywood, he soon meets and falls for Phil’s down to earth secretary Vonny (Kristen Stewart). But things are not straight forward for this young couple as Vonny reveals she has a boyfriend ,so this will be a love story with the sharp and pointy bits of a triangle.
As always, Woody Allen is the star of the show and his unique voice bursts through each line of dialogue, but in Café Society he acts as the narrator so we hear his actual voice too which doesn’t help with the suspension of disbelief. It’s almost like it’s slide night at Woody’s house and he is showing us some pictures to help flesh out the story he is telling us.
Set in 1930, the set designers clearly had great fun stocking the backgrounds and you can almost see the glee the costumers took in dressing the cast, but everything else seems fake. You don’t really buy Steve Carrell as the high powered Hollywood Agent, the peripheral characters all seem too familiar and despite the number of real names dropped, any attempt at realism is half-hearted.
When the action shifts back to New York, the same problem continues as the sets are clearly sets, the gangster scenes are played for laughs so when you are hit over the head with Woody Allenesque themes of infidelity and May/December romances, it’s impossible to stop your mind drifting towards the personal lives of the main players.
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