Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Film: 'Cafe Society'

A Woody Allen film is an annual 'event' towards which I always look with agreeable expectation. Unfortunately, this one I'd rate so far below the heights which he is capable of attaining that I find it hard to commend it on any level. In my view it deserves to be placed in the lower reaches of his lifetime of films. 

Two things in particular didn't enhance my 'enjoyment' of the film. In this the lead is played by Jesse Eisenberg who is my current number one irritant on film. It started with 'The Social Network' and was consolidated by the dire 'Batman v Superman'. His appearance here doesn't in any way expunge my unfavourable attitude to him.
In addition, I watched this on a stiflingly hot day in a stuffy cinema, my only mood being to want to drop off to sleep.

Set in the 1930s, the first half of the film takes place in Hollywood where Eisenberg from New York comes to visit his uncle (Steve Carrell), an influential film agent who rubs shoulders with all the big screen stars of the time. He hopes to get a job in the industry but his uncle isn't keen on the idea. Meantime he falls for Carrell's secretary (Kristen Stewart), and courts her, wanting her to come back to New York where they'll marry. However, his uncle has similar designs on the same person. Added to this complication, and providing much of the little humour in this film - and very 'black' it is - is Eisenberg's older brother back in NY, a gangster leader who'll eliminate anyone who gets in his way, as well as doing 'favours' in that direction. Eisenberg, returning to NY becomes a successful night club manager and takes up with another young lady (Blake Lively). 

I thought the whole film was on the laborious side, plotwise as well as script. There are a few of the 'sparkles' in dialogue which we come to expect from Allen, but they are much sparser than usual. Even Allen's trademark jazz background score seemed to be lazy choices - jazz improvisations of course, but only of old standards that we already know so well - and not only that, the same numbers are repeated several times! It's almost as though he couldn't be bothered to spice it up by giving us something unusual.

I felt relieved when this was over. It's not a film I'll want to recall. I may watch it again when it comes round on TV, but only if by then I've forgotten how inferior it was. 
A serious disappointment, then, but being Allen who even at his worst is better than some, I'll award it ........5.5

   

12 comments:

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    1. It was just that - and I speak as someone who's more willing than most to give Woody the benefit of doubt, in fact liking several of his films that others have slated, such as his 'London Trilogy'. But I really think he's hit the buffers on this one.

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  2. You dislike Jesse, but just seeing the name Kristen Stewart would send me scurrying from the theater.

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    1. I think my antipathy towards J.E. masked the rest of the cast, Bob, though I was also disappointed by Steve Carrell's appearance which I was expecting to have lifted things a bit. But all in all, it's a major let-down - and I'm really thinking that my rating of 5.5 was needlessly generous. If I was writing the above now, on the morning after, a '4' might have been nearer the mark.

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    2. Ray,
      Interesting comment about Kristen Stewart. I like her. Anything she's in is interesting to me.
      Ron

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    3. I've been pretty neutral towards her up to now, Ron, but now with disparate views from yourself and Bob I'm going to have to pay more attention t her presence, and see whose side I come down on.

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  3. My sister saw this and she said a score of 3. uhh.

    How are you doing?

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  4. Yes, Sol. Trouble with any Woody Allen film is that he's attained such a high level many times in his lifework of films, that when he comes short of that standard, as he does here, it looks worse than if it had come from a director without such a formidable record as Allen has.

    As for me, still waiting, waiting, waiting - for an appointment for a hospital examination. Meanwhile, now over six weeks since the event, it seems my jaw has now permanently set in its newer 'ugly' state, and until whatever dental works can be done and achieved I've just got to remember to keep my trap shut, though there no constant pain now. Thanks for enquiring.

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  5. Ray,
    Like you Jesse Eisenberg is also my number one irritant in films. I can't put my finger on why I don't like him, I just don't. I could barely get through "Social Network" with all his affected mannerisms. I don't get the fascination with this actor but I guess I shouldn't be surprised that Woody Allen would place him in one of his films. Eisenberg is just about as annoying at Allen is himself when acting in his own movies. I like some of Woody Allen's movies but not him, he's too affected with the New York Jewish Nerd Thing. Not appealing to me. I like movies where I like the actor or actress.
    Ron

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    1. Must admit that I usually do like Woody acting in his own films - in fact I tend to prefer them - but now at 80 he's now obviously much too old for nearly all the male characters he writes in. There was one film, though, in which he didn't fit - 'Small Time Crooks' where he was playing a less-than-smart man, when we all know that he's highly intelligent and it was impossible for me to shrug that off.

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  6. Ray,
    I won't see this film for the sole reason Jesse Eisenberg is in it. He's one of those actors who isn't really an actor, he's just playing his annoying self which I only find annoying.
    Ron

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    1. Yes, I think he's also lined up to play the lead in Allen's next film too, though I may be wrong. I thought 'The Social Network', just as a film, was the pits and could never understand why it's so still so highly praised. Of course it would have helped a lot to have been able to hear what the mumbling cast were on about for most of the time, Eisenberg included.

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