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Café Society - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Café Society
Directing: C
Acting: B+
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B-

Here's one for those of you who think I give movies good reviews too often: not only did I find Woody Allen's latest film to be a fundamental disappointment, I am also an outlier on that point, given its generally positive reviews. Honestly why anyone would think this movie is all that great is mystifying to me.

Café Society isn't bad per se, it's just dull. Neither is it a surprise: Woody Allen has put out one movie per year for decades, and they can't all be great. This is just one of the not-great ones. It feels a little like he put this one together in his sleep. It's just too bad after such a long string of very-good to great late-career output from him: Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine, Magic in the Moonlight, Irrational Man. These movies were by turns thoroughly charming, wonderfully clever, or presented real ideas ripe for discussion. Café Society has none of these qualities.

And on paper, this movie has a lot going for it, not least of which is the parade of great actors in it. But what Woody Allen movie doesn't have that? Actors love this guy and, far and wide, want to be in one -- or more -- of his movies. It doesn't seem to matter too much where it ranks in this most prolific of director's pantheon of movies. So, even here, we get solid performances from the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carell, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively, Parker Posey (who showed up in last year's Irrational Man), Corey Stoll, Anna Camp and more. This is a movie put together by people who care; it's far from a mess. They just can't manage to rise above the material, which never moves beyond just being about unrequited love and two people who love each other but also both love another person at the same time. Love and marriage and infidelity -- there actually are ways one can still make these things interesting. Woody Allen just didn't quite manage it with this movie.

Woody Allen is 80 years old. Given the consistency of his output, we can probably safely assume he will continue churning out movies until he drops dead. Some people are ready for him to do just that. There's always the question of separating the artist with the art when it comes to a weirdo like him. I must be in the "separate" camp, because I keep going to his movies. Because many of them are quite good. You keep going every year, though, and there's an element of a gamble. You win some, you lose some.

Café Society has its moments, especially when examining Eisenberg's extended Jewish family. Being Jewish is very much a theme here, as a young man moves from Manhattan to try establishing a new life working for his movie studio executive uncle in Hollywood. This is a common theme for Woody Allen, of course, and it does make for a couple of good laughs.

A couple isn't quite enough, however. Neither is the fact that this movie is roughly a third through before anything particularly interesting even happens. I mean, you can appreciate the fine cinematography and the 1930s period production design. Some people find that stuff interesting. But a movie lives and dies by its script and its editing, and neither does this one any favors.

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are above average in the thoroughly bland CAFÉ SOCIETY.

Overall: C+
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