Café Society, the latest film from long standing auteur Woody Allen, is a love affair with the golden age of Hollywood. In fact it’s a love affair, within a love affair, within a love affair of Hollywood.
It stars Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby Dorfman, a young man trying to make it big in the entertainment industry who calls on his big-shot talent agent uncle Phil, played by Steve Carell, to take him under his wing and, well, give him a job.
As a hopeless romantic I absolutely loved this film. It is sumptuously filmed in over-saturated, sun-drenched splendour capturing the look and feel of 1930s Los Angeles perfectly. Not only does it look great but the story arc of unrequited love is just the right amount of heart-string pulling and the journey the characters take is convincing and, ultimately, doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s not a film full of plot-twists, revelations, action sequences, or over-the-top screaming, shouting, door-flinging passion; it’s a gentle and ultimately ‘quiet’ story, which is bound to put a lot of people off. It’s just what I look for in a film.
But I defy anyone to not fall in love with Kristen Stewart’s Vonnie, she’s completely perfect in her role as Eisenberg’s unrequited love, their screen time together has an absolute realness to it and their transformation, both together and in their separate lives is perfectly played out. Oh, and she rocks the bobby-sock and heels look like no one else.
Which brings us to the thing you’re really here for… the costumes. To my eye, for once in a modern film, the wardrobe department did an absolutely spot-on job. No modern clothes made to look original here; and although I doubt anything is an original piece, they’ve managed to re-create them amazingly well. For the men there’s Palm Beach, belt-back, pleated sports coat heaven, and crisp black and white tuxedo dreams. For the ladies there’s floaty beach-pyjama, crisp white sundress, sporty shorts and a tie-top gorgeousness with opulent, silky, sparkly and slinky evening gowns for dessert.
Some might say the film is a little style-over-substance, the storyline isn’t particularly difficult or new, and the way that the film is shot is very much a pastiche of Hollywood films of old. Even the ‘sex’ scene is done in that old-style, passionate kissing, disappearing off screen and cutting back later style, but to me this is what adds charm and grace, much like its cast, without whom this would be a very different film. Even Allen’s world-weary narration doesn’t spoil the enchanted feel of the film, but it’s Eisenberg and Stewart’s onscreen chemistry that keeps this film afloat, and thank the gods that Bruce Willis didn’t end up in the Steve Carell role, that would have been a massive mis-step.