It really sucks that the modern outputs of Woody Allen have all been middling at best. I’m not even sure if I could pin-point this turnaround of poor-quality content, but Café Society certainly hasn’t helped him.
Maybe it’s his lack of on-screen presence that drags his movies down these days. It wasn’t the case for Midnight in Paris, but Allen’s unofficial retirement from on-screen roles in his movies is a loss like no other. The charms of his performance have since been attempted and shoddily replicated by other actors. Owen Wilson, Javier Bardem, and, I kid you not, Café Society offers up Jesse Eisenberg as our leading man.
Miscast isn’t the word for it, and as Allen’s image becomes more and more controversial, his pool of actors grows smaller and smaller. Eisenberg’s horrible miscasting aside, Steve Carrel is moderately appealing in his supporting role as Phil Stern. Blake Lively is incredibly underutilised but from what she offers up here she’s certainly one of the better parts of the movie.
By far the most amount of difficulty comes from the lacking chemistry between Eisenberg and expected love interest Vonnie, played here by Kristen Stewart. Nobody throughout this movie gels all that well exactly, leaving sporadic pieces of decent performances that muddle together rather poorly.
Allen’s direction however seems to have picked up somewhat since the invention of the HD camera, and his direction and cinematography throughout is colourful and embraces the modern charms of cinema as best as Allen could possibly manage. It’s a shame then that as he embraces this new wave of storytelling, he fails tremendously to bring his A-Game.
Time after time, the “Woody Allen” movie has been wheeled out as nothing more than a stale old romantic comedy with a light bit of drama. Café Society manages to check all the boxes in that regard, and it ends with a pathetically sad slump, one that would’ve been reminiscent of an open-ended drama.
But that’s not what we go to Allen for, and instead of a tightly resolved ending, we’re left with a soppy and depressing taste in our mouths. It seems that Allen’s worries of death have started to seep into his screenplay far more than we could’ve ever imagined.