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23 Nov 2016

Home Video Review: Woody Allen's 'Café Society' Is Worth Seeing, Even If Kristen Stewart Falls a Little Flat

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Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Cafe Society. Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in Cafe Society.

In the vast catalogue of Woody Allen films, Café Society falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. While it’s definitely one of his better-looking movies, a slight casting mistake leads to the movie being a little underwhelming at times.

Kristen Stewart is often great (see her in this year’s Certain Women for an example of just how damned great she can be), but if you put her in the wrong role, you can really see her working and straining.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Woody Allen Jr.—uh, I mean Bobby, a young kid looking to find work in old-timey Hollywood under the tutelage of his studio big-shot uncle, Phil (Steve Carell, kicking mortal ass). Phil asks one of his assistants, Vonnie (Stewart), to show Bobby around—and, of course, they fall in love.

Café Society has all of the Allen tropes: a bumbling protagonist, a smart-but-not-that-smart love interest, old-timey jazz music and silly romantic situations. Stewart’s character is luminous at times, but seems bored in others, as if the actress is not sure how to play Vonnie’s wild personality shifts. She just plays it sort of dull.

Eisenberg does his best Woody Allen impersonation, while the costuming, set design and cinematography are all first-rate. Even when the movie gets a little stupid, it’s always fun to watch.

Café Society gets a mild recommendation. Just don’t look to it for a great Stewart performance, because she seems a little clueless. I’m not sure that’s even really her fault: When Allen writes lazily, some characters go by the wayside.

Café Society is available via online sources, and on DVD and Blu-ray.

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