The Film (4/5)
Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) is a New Yorker who has moved to L.A. to find work under his studio executive uncle Phil (Steve Carell). Phil is initially reluctant to give him a job, but not only takes a liking to the young Bobby, but finds him a fine companion, and an excellent employee. At the same time he allows his assistant Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) to show Bobby the ropes of Hollywood. Bobby is immediately smitten with Vonnie, but because she is in a relationship with someone else, he is unable to make his move. One day, she finds herself in a place where her relationship sort of falls apart, and Bobby makes his move.
The two end up quite happy together, but this happiness is short lived, because her unseen lover quickly reappears having changed his mind. Bobby moves back to New York to open a club with his hardcore gangster brother to much success, and the Vonnie and Bobby drift apart until one night when she wanders into the club, a much changed person. Bobby is now a married man. The two at different stations in life begin to reconnect and see how they now fit into each others lives at present.
Cafe Society is the 47th film by Woody Allen having directed a film a year roughly since the late 60's and is his latest film not counting the "Crisis in Six Scenes" mini-series currently available on Amazon Video. It is quite obvious the director ran out new things to say quite some time ago, and so the films he has made probably for the last two and a half decades have been less about finding new things to say, then the refinement of his pre-existing themes. Betrayal and unrequited romance for example seem to play heavily into the works of Allen, and they work their way into Cafe Society.
Further, Allen acting like a pre-cursor to many modern directors seems to homage the great works that inspired him. In the early 80's in works like Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, Interiors, and Stardust Memories he showed his appreciation for the works of Bergman and Fellini. With Cafe Society I noticed his love affair with Wilder specifically him riffing on Wilder's The Apartment especially in the earlier L.A. portion of the film.
Cafe Society, however, at it's core is prime Allen. It's laugh out loud funny at its best, but also has nice dramatic flourishes that make the film irresistible to the end. The performances across the board are wonderful with Jesse Eisenberg acting as the perfect Allen cypher I always knew he could be. Kristen Stewart turns in a quite excellent performance, and Steve Carrel is wonderful as Uncle Phil, mixing comedy, and drama with an air of anger that is absolutely fantastic. The cinematography from Vittaro Storaro is, of course, stunning, and there are moments where I found myself drawn completely into the visuals and had to remind myself I was watching a Woody Allen film.
With a film a year, Allen is a truly hit or miss filmmaker. I haven't loved any of his stuff since Blue Jasmine, and before that Midnight in Paris. This film truly shines with a mix of drama and comedy that truly works well. It is definitely an Allen film, but if you are a fan, it is definitely worth a watch.
Lionsgate presents Cafe Society in a wonderful 2:00:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the films OAR. Everything here looks gorgeous and crisp. Detail is excellent, colors are well reproduced, and blacks are inky and deep.
The audio is presented in a similarly solid DTS-HD MA 5.1 track in English. The track is well served with dialogue and score coming through nicely, and no issues detected with the track.
Woody Allen's best movie in years is a wonderful blend of drama and comedy that is anchored by a wonderful cast, and shot by one of the greatest cinematographers of all time who brings his all to the production. The Blu-ray looks and sounds stunning, but as is par for course with Allen on home video lacks extras. RECOMMENDED.