Review: ‘Café Society’ Won’t Convert Woody Allen Non-Believers

Even though he re-establishes himself every few years with a triumph like Blue Jasmine, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, or Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen remains a cultural pariah. There is a sharp delineation between people who might enjoy his films and people who probably won’t. Even among the former group, which I consider myself a part of, this latest work is something of a crap shoot.

I found plenty to enjoy here, but elements that can sometimes stop Allen’s films dead in their tracks are also present – the most notable being an unflailing, almost depressing sense of cynicism.

The film is practically bifurcated – the first half takes place in sunny period Hollywood, where Steve Carell (who replaced Bruce Willis after shooting started) puts in blustery work as a non-stop name-dropper.

The second half of the film, set in New York, is quite different. At this point in his career, the concept of Jesse Eisenberg as the suave manager of the swinging-est night club in swing New York is as crazy as it ever could be, yet the actor pulls it off, and the scenes of him playing host are some of the most purely fun of the movie. Also, the increasingly ubiquitious Corey Stoll (TV’s House of Cards, Ant-Man) is great as Eisenberg’s gangster brother.

Allen appears to relish the staging of an extinct form of New York nightlife, resulting in more aesthetic pleasures than one usually finds in his works.

The audience for this film already knows who it is. It won’t convert anyone not already committed to the cause, but it will provide occasional delights for those susceptible to Woody Allen’s charms.

‘Cafe Society’ Movie Times