Café Society Screen 17 articles

Café Society

2016

Café Society Poster
  • The whole structure of the film moves towards something that is sweet and light and dreamy and mature. The focus is not on the chattering ensemble of characters or the tying up of wayward narrative strands, or relative degrees of human darkness, as explored in Allen’s 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanours. These elements are merely sideshows to the wistful kernel of an idea that Allen is desperately trying to transmit.

  • Neither the characters nor their liaisons are the least bit involving. The chief reason is the performances, particularly Carell’s and Stewart’s. Although they have proved themselves stellar actors in the past, here with each line reading they seem to be fighting a losing, relatable battle against boredom... That said, Allen’s script carries an almost equal blame for drawing characters so insipid and dialogues so flat, it’s no surprise they failed to rouse his actors’ enthusiasm.

  • Café Society only works when you step back and look at it whole. From moment to moment, it’s as painfully tin-eared as Allen’s other recent work, populated by characters who are barely distinctive or memorable enough for the trifle the film looks like on its surface, much less the weighty meditation on change and disappointment it finally reveals itself to be.

  • The cinematographer is the legendary Vittorio Storaro, but this is far from his finest work. (Much, if not all, of the color work was probably done in postproduction.) When Mr. Allen, who provides the on-and-off voice-over, refers to a beautiful sky, what you see onscreen are colors that are more urine-hued than sun-kissed.

  • Allen's drive to make a film every year, regardless of its merits, unavoidably results in an uneven œuvre, with an embarrassing misfire or two for every film that is on-target. His latest release lies between the two extremes; by no means catastrophic, it is merely unremarkable, and thus is perfectly slotted as an opening night film, which as a rule is more about celebrity pulling power than cinematic prowess.

  • Sight & Sound: Violet Lucca
    August 05, 2016 | September 2016 Issue (p. 73)

    Though there is an undeniable sadness to Vonnie and Bobby's predicament that in some ways echoes Annie Hall (1977), the sheer amount of *stuff* surrounding their doomed love diminishes any potential emotional impact (most the volume of lazy, self-deprecating jokes about being Jewish, either stated or made through stereotypical characters).

  • Allen devotees will find plenty to appreciate but little to obsess over. No matter how uneven his outcome, Allen's late period achievements increasingly show signs of a renewed self-awareness.

  • Eisenberg’s cadence is a lot like that of the characters often found in the central roles of Woody Allen’s movies. His deadpan, self-deprecating delivery is distinctively Allen’s and mixes well with the period jazz music also characteristic of the filmmaker’s oeuvre.

  • The film's emotional momentum, if not its plotty swiftness, burns out a bit as Allen elaborates on Bobby's new life as an aristocratic liaison and a married man, but it regains its footing when Vonnie spontaneously re-enters the story with an overhauled identity as a gossiping socialite. The reunion, initially tentative and then bittersweet, hits with a wallop, at which point the somewhat messy accumulation of life events starts to feel retroactively like a structural maneuver.

  • You can sense Allen really thinking about visual storytelling for the first time in a long while, and Storaro's always elegant lighting makes even the most basic two-shots pop... Lovely visuals, terrific performances, renewed ambition: There's enough good in Café Society to make it worth your while — and also to make you wish it were better.

  • While predictable in certain respects, “Café Society” surprises in others, one of which is the “life goes on” swerve it makes midway through, one by which, among other things, its title is justified. Bobby and Vonnie’s separate lives see Bobby taking over management of a swank New York nightclub owned by his gangster brother and Vonnie becoming a Hollywood wife. That they never really got over each other is the theme of the movie’s languid, lyrical and sad final third.

  • These days, Allen’s stories rarely open out a great deal. But that’s why Café Society comes as a surprise. After the slender sketches of his recent movies, Café Society feels buoyantly ample. That doesn’t mean that it’s exactly crackling with invention: there are few ideas here that are truly fresh.

  • Allen doesn’t at all seem interested in the hows and the whys of the story... but fills the movie only with the whats. He leaves his actors lots of leeway in a story and physical setting that allows for little freedom, and Stewart, with her blend of even-toned frankness and elusive opacity, is aptly cast in the role of an educated person of sensibility and imagination who’s out of her element in Hollywood and, for that matter, seemingly anywhere.

  • I can’t say a word against the work done here by Stewart, or longtime Allen collaborators like Santo Loquasto and casting director Juliet Taylor, or Storaro, who has given us some sumptuous images. Café Society is never ugly, even when touching on the genteel poverty of the lower middle-class—though does all of this generously spackled-on beauty necessarily work to the advantage of a movie which counts the price tag of beauty among its concerns?

  • At first glance, Café Society might seem like Allen treading water. Witty conversations revolve around fate, religion and morality expressing a collective nervousness about love and happiness. "The poignancy of life" reveals a push-pull between academic reason and brute violence. But much like Magic in the Moonlight, its power builds over time through the subtle gut punches thrown at each character's prideful egos. Storaro's sun-kissed cinematography makes that transition entirely seamless.

  • You wonder if it’s going to coalesce in some madly ingenious way, but it’s hard to be ingenious when you’re churning out scripts like Allen does. Structure is loose in general: the film stops for tangents, like a summary of a minor character’s life (Corey Stoll as Ben the gangster) that could’ve been snipped altogether. Yet, in this case at least, the lack of cohesion is an asset, making a rather bleak statement on the meaninglessness of Life that’s surprisingly touching.

  • With its central theme of lost beauty and unfulfilled desire, the film counterpoints the characters muted depression with lustrous décor and elaborate lighting schemes. It’s designed like a golden nugget, with thick shafts of light shimmering through window blinds, and interior surfaces made to glimmer alluringly. Still, mid-table Woody is better than the A-game of most other journeyman hacks.

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