Woody Allen has another crowd pleaser on his hands with “Cafe Society”

cafe society
It’s always a slightly underrated pleasure in my eyes that we get a new Woody Allen movie each year, without delay. This week, he brings us yet another one, and I’m quite fond of it as well, if you’ve noticed my praise here and there over the course of the month. It’s Cafe Society, which is one of my favorites of 2016 so far. Not only is it a return to form of sorts for Allen (as folks always like to claim), but it’s a fantastic turn for Kristen Stewart, who is a perfect match for the material. It all comes together in a really pleasurable way. It’s just a damn good movie.

This is another period piece from Allen, this one set in the 1930’s, both in New York City and Hollywood as well. Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) moves from the Bronx to Tinseltown in search of a job in the movie industry, which he gets due to his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), an agent to the stars. Not only does he have an in, but Bobby also meets Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Stewart), which whom he falls head over heels in love. I won’t say where it goes, but it has more to say about love than you might initially think. Stewart writes, directs, and narrates, with the cast, in addition to the main three mentioned above, including Jeannie Berlin, Anna Camp, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Paul Schneider, Corey Stoll, Ken Stott, and more. Cinematography here is done by the legendary Vittorio Storaro.

Much like earlier this week with Equals, Stewart shines here. She, along with Storaro’s visuals, which are my favorite of the year. There’s just a vibrance from both on display here that just mix with Allen in a phenomenal way. It’s so luminous, you can’t help but fall under its spell. You can make the case that Woody is cribbing from his own filmography again, but he’s choosing top notch outings of his own to utilize, so that’s all good in my book. Carell, Eisenberg, and Lively are strong as well, as is Stoll in a small role, but Stewart completely steals the show.

Awards wise, Cafe Society could be the sort of Allen flick to make a play with the Academy. In terms of categories, look for campaigns in Best Picture, Best Director (for Allen), Best Actor (for Eisenberg), Best Supporting Actor (for Carell), Best Supporting Actress (for Lively too, but mainly Stewart), Best Original Screenplay (for Allen as well), Best Cinematography (for Storaro), Best Costume Design, and Best Film Editing. Realistically, it’s Picture, Supporting Actress for Stewart, Original Screenplay, and Cinematography that are truly in play, with Picture probably even a longer shot. We shall see though. Stewart at least deserves to be in contention.

Woody Allen 2014
As a bonus, here’s how I would rank all of Allen’s films so far, including Cafe Society:

1. Annie Hall
2. Sleeper
3. Manhattan
4. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask
5. Hannah and her Sisters
6. Radio Days
7. Match Point
8. The Purple Rose of Cairo
9. Midnight in Paris
10. Anything Else
11. Zelig
12. Bullets Over Broadway
13. Blue Jasmine
14. Cafe Society
15. Bananas
16. Interiors
17. Mighty Aphrodite
18. Crimes and Misdemeanors
19. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
20. Take the Money and Run
21. Deconstructing Harry
22. Sweet and Lowdown
23. Shadows and Fog
24. Everyone Says I Love You
25. Manhattan Murder Mystery
26. Whatever Works
27. Husbands and Wives
28. Stardust Memories
29. Small Time Crooks
30. Irrational Man
31. Broadway Danny Rose
32. Melinda and Melinda
33. A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy
34. Celebrity
35. Magic in the Moonlight
36. Love and Death
37. What’s Up, Tiger Lily?
38. Another Woman
39. Scoop
40. To Rome With Love
41. Alice
42. Hollywood Ending
43. September
44. Cassandra’s Dream
45. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
46. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

2011 MTV Movie Awards - Arrivals
In the end, fans of Allen will enjoy this weekend’s release of Cafe Society, as will fans of Stewart. Between this and Equals, it’s going to be a good day for Stewart fans tomorrow. This is the superior work, as well as Allen’s best since at least Blue Jasmine, if not Midnight in Paris. This is a melancholy yet loving look at the 30’s on both coasts, which spoke to me in a very profound way. Yes, even Allen’s worst (Cassandra’s Dream, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, to reiterate three of them) are still enjoyable mixed bags to me, with his best (Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Sleeper, to say these classics once more) being overt masterpieces, so I’m clearly a fan, but even those who don’t love his work will potentially enjoy this. If nothing else, see it for Stewart’s great turn…

Be sure to check out Stewart in Cafe Society, beginning its theatrical run this Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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