Woody Allen’s films have been divisive for years, as his characters walk the thin line between being intellectual and pretentious. His screenplay’s are written a certain way, but much of their qualities are determined by the adaptation by the performers. Luckily for Cafe Society, the performances by Jesse Eisenberg, Kristin Stewart, and Steve Carell aren’t just great, but a perfect fit for Allen’s story.
Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) is keen to leave Manhattan, traveling to Los Angeles to work for his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a successful film producer. While under Phil’s wing, Bobby meets his secretary Veronica (Kristin Stewart), and a romantic relationship emerges. What’s impressive isn’t that Allen tells a romantic story that’s instantly relatable, but it’s how Allen manages each scene. Scenes of heartbreak are somber but not devastating, with each scene passing by leaving the audience as emotionally confused as the characters.
Eisenberg is a perfect fit for Allen’s dialogue; the inherent awkwardness of the situations in which Allen writes can easily come off as uncomfortable, but Eisenberg’s charisma makes it feel charming. Enough can’t be said about his chemistry with Stewart, as the two’s relationship is hilarious, heartbreaking, and instantly memorable. Coupled with a loud-mouthed, scene stealing Steve Carell, the cast makes Allen’s dialogue their own.
Cafe Society isn’t an instant classic, but makes for one of the more enjoyable watches of the year. The plot essentially ties together a series of highly entertaining scenes, but with actors as good as these that’s okay. It’s subtle, charming, and beautifully shot, a thoughtful and relatable romantic-comedy. Grade: B+