Cafe Society: A Half Decent Woody Allen Film


Written by Nelson Cumming

Café Society is pretty much the same movie as Hail, Caesar!. Sure Café Society is more romanticized and pretty than Hail, Caesar! but both movies hit the same notes, they are both love letters to the Hollywood of the past and the directors from both movies decided to let their hair down and embrace themselves in the nostalgia of a place in time from a place they used to love (and maybe still love, I don’t know)

For Woody Allen, filmmaking, young love, and comedy are his passions. Yes, you can tell he loves to make movies because he is 80 years old and still writing and directing one film per year since Annie Hall in 1975. That is over half his lifetime. Café society shows us that the love of filmmaking is still there.

Very Warm and Very Pretty


If you think this is pretty you should see the inside. 


Allen’s love for cinema is are in the shots and the scenery more than anything else. Throughout the movie, there is warm golden lighting with light jazz music and exquisite locations and set design but nothing is oversaturated or overdone. He used light, whimsical subtly to immerse you into the picture of the Hollywood lifestyle of the 30’s. Even the way he transitions through scenes adds a bit of light heartedness to the performance.

This lavish but inviting atmosphere is backed up by the chemistry between Kristan Stewart and Jessie Eisenberg as well as Steve Carrell. The three are in a complicated love triangle. Stewart falls for both of them but there are complications to both of them


Stewart and Eisenberg representing two-thirds of the love triangle 


Carrell is an agent to the stars (Like Bead Whitlock in Hail, Caesar!) who ends up hiring his nephew (played by Eisenberg) out of nepotism. Eisenberg falls in love with Stewart’s character the first time he meets her. The problem is Carrell is also in love with her but Eisenberg dosesn’t know that because Carrell’s character had been happily married for over twenty and struggles to find the courage to ask his wife for a divorce. You can see how complicated it gets. Despite the complexity of the love triangle it is easy to understand when you see it.

The one thing that is annoying about Café Society is the narration. At first, I liked it because I thought it added to the story. Then it’s done far too often and it starts to feel like a narrative crutch. Allen is the narrator and he is good at exploring beauty, style, decor, scriptwriting and wit. What he lacked was brevity this time. The narration just sprawls on and on and on and it did get boring.

Nevertheless, Café Society gave me an odd character experience at the end. The end shows sadness and beauty together where at the end I felt heavy but oddly relaxed. It was a strange but satisfying emotive feeling. There are not many morals to Café Society but it wants to appreciate the scenery and the story and the former was great and the latter was good. It’s not one of Allen’s finest works but one that works if you are a fan of his catalog ***1/4