Director-writer-auteur Woody Allen produces his 46th feature film as a photogenic art piece with somewhat mixed results. The subject here is the disparity between New York and Hollywood circa 1930s and the world of Depression era musicals mixed with your typical boy meets girl machinations.
Phil Stern (a wonderful Steve Carell-playing a Hollywood talent agent) meets up with a distant relative from his Bronx past. That person of interest is Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) and we have him falling for Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart at her best) until complications drive him back to NYC and work for his petty criminal brother, Ben (Corey Stoll). Keeping all this at a distance is the neurotic voice of narrator Woody Allen giving an ironic tone to this thin story. Bobby hammers this home when he says “Life is a comedy written by a sadistic comedy writer”.
The second love of Bobby’s life, Veronica, is played picture perfect by the lovely Blake Lively. Allen reflects on this follow-up love affair with a classic one-liner: “Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, but the examined life is no bargain either”. What makes this all appealing is the beautiful cinematography of one of the true masters of the craft-the legendary Vittorio Storaro. While not the most engaging film of his prolific career “Café Society” clocks in as one of Mr. Allen’s lesser works. We can admire its production design and its remembrance of things past.