- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Café Society

| August 5, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Café Society.

Congratulations Woody Allen. You finally did it. You tricked me into seeing one of your films in theaters. I’m not a Woody Allen fan by any means. He has his strengths, and he has his weaknesses that he has decided to make a twilight years career out of. Allen has released a film  every single year since 1982. Does that come as a surprise to you? Well, don’t worry, because most of them are mediocre. I applaud Allen for doing this. Especially for a man who is now in his eighties, it is extremely impressive that he has been able to direct a film every single year for three decades. The problem is that almost all of them are forgettable. For every Midnight in Paris, you get five films that you can’t name because you didn’t care enough to know they exist. Which no big deal, they don’t warrant being known. This is his latest film in this fashion.

Café Society has a wonderful cast, with everyone giving a solid seventy-percent. Jesse Eisenberg plays a young man who moves to the west coast for a change of pace in the golden age of Hollywood, also playing the role that Allen would have played if he was young enough to do so. Kristen Stewart plays a young woman who works on the west coast, she and Eisenberg’s character fall in love. Steve Carrell impresses the audience by blending into the time period so well I almost didn’t recognize him. Carrell plays Eisenberg’s uncle, a big shot in Hollywood, who hires him as his personal assistant. But wacky adventures ensue as it turns out that Carrell is dating Kristen Stewart in secret while Eisenberg falls in lover with her! Besides Carell, the main cast never blew me away. I wanted to get blown away, I enjoy both Eisenberg and Stewart, but I felt that there was always something missing from the two of them. You could say that about almost everyone in the cast. The extended cast, I would say is where the film shines. Corey Stoll steals every scene he is in as Eisenberg’s brother who does some shady gangster like business on the east coast. And surprisingly Blake Lively gives the most genuine performance out of the bunch. I’ve always thought that Lively was a fantastic actress, but was not expecting her to be one of the biggest highlights of the film. Neither of these characters gets as much screen time as I would have liked. By the end of the film, I thought that Stoll’s character was far more interesting than Eisenberg’s and I wish the film was focused on him. I honestly really want to see a Woody Allen gangster movie now. Hopefully, that’s the one we get next year.

Part of my issue with Woody Allen is that his writing always feels super full of itself. This wasn’t the case in this film completely, though. There is one scene in the beginning of the film with Eisenberg and a character played by Anna Camp, which is honestly one of the best-written comedy scenes so far this year. But many of the lines between Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart just feel so bland and hollow. They are lines that don’t sit right with me, maybe this is the performance or maybe this is the writing. But something is definitely wrong here. There are moments that are darkly comical that I very much did enjoy, and I do think that these scenes make this one of the better written Woody Allen films in the past ten years. But the dialogue never clicked in the scenes where it was needed. The story is fairly bland as well. You know what is going to happen, which normally isn’t a problem for me as long as the dialogue is good, which it isn’t. The story essentially ends at the middle of the film, but it keeps going and had me wondering when the film was going to end. Kristen Stewart makes her choice in the middle of the film, and everything after that just feels unneeded. Yes, we see what happens to the characters years after this fact, but it doesn’t really connect with the beginning of the story enough to warrant the entirety of the second half. Lively and Stoll’s characters become kind of the big point of the second half, which is really the only upside to that part of the film. When the film ended I didn’t know what to make of it because it felt as though I had already checked out of this story long ago to the point where I didn’t feel anything at the end. I just thought “Oh, it’s over I guess.” Not angry. Not happy. Just apathetic.

The cinematography, much like the rest of the film, feels uninspired. I would say that a lot of the shots look nice and the lighting is usually what kept me interested in the film, but may of the shots that I would think to stand out have been done to death before. It feels like everyone who worked on this film, both cast and crew, were just going through the motions. Doing what was required without having any kind of passion for what they were doing. It feels hollow. It feels cold when the colors and cinematography tell me I should feel warm. Hell, Woody Allen does the narration for the film and even that feels tired and bored.

I understand that a lot of people hold Woody Allen up as one of the greatest filmmakers to ever live. And I understand that if you have only seen his “Classics”. But he has done nothing but disappoint me for the past couple years now. Woody, take a break. Don’t feel obligated to release a film every single year. Whatever you are trying to prove, you’ve done it already. This feels uninspired. This feels like you don’t really care and are going through the motions. Café Society feels heartless when it should be one of the most lovely films you’ve made recently. Make something you feel passionate towards. And when you do, I can’t wait to see it. But please, don’t end your legendary career with something like this.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.
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