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*Woody's 46th film "Cafe, Society" ok, but far from his best


spence
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I saw *"The Woodman's' newest-latest & #46th film as director "Café, Society' on Monday & was a little surprised that it was a wee-bit better then most thought, at least in my opinion. I always like his films more though w/him in 'em, here he only narrates & has Jesse Eisenberg ("Social Network") as basically, him.

 

As he generally does if he's not in the picture, he has his own "voice' in a main character. & Kristen Stewart-("Twilight-films") also stars & man, they both seem so young, at least to me. Another benefit to me & possibly TCM fans is it takes place in Hollywoods Golden Age-(circa late 1930's anyway) Critic's were correct in it's main assets being it's Cinematography, Costumes & Art-Direction-(likely it's only *Oscar noms. this time out)

 

& not an all out Comedy either, more of another Comedy-Drama

 

It seems unlikely though that he'll snag another of his already record (18) *Academy Award nods. for Best Screenplay

 

But, not among his worst either i.e. 2003's "Anything Else" (*) ($5m.)

 

This one only took in about $4m. last weekend & as most know his flix don't make much $money$ anyway

 

Like *Eastwood he sticks with the same people, cast, crew, music,etc

 

He'll be 81 this December as a matter of fact

 

For his fans only

 

(**1/2-out of 4 stars)

 

 

THANK YOU

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  • 4 months later...

That a film this "young" and this "fresh" could be made by an 81-year-old man is a remarkable achievement to me.

 

In the Essentials forum, my theme for January is going to be Woody Allen films.  

 

My favorite Woody Allen film is INTERIORS and that will be the very first one I highlight.

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I have always been a fan of Woody Allen and separated his lifestyle choices from his work.  While his movies are uneven I can honestly say I have always found something to like in every one.  The one movie that I will watch over and over is "Radio Days" I just cannot find one flaw in that film.  I have Amazon Prime and will be watching "Cafe Society" too....most likely when TCM has some of the dreck it has been recently showing or more to the point over exposed movies. 

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I have always been a fan of Woody Allen and separated his lifestyle choices from his work.  While his movies are uneven I can honestly say I have always found something to like in every one.  The one movie that I will watch over and over is "Radio Days" I just cannot find one flaw in that film.  I have Amazon Prime and will be watching "Cafe Society" too....most likely when TCM has some of the dreck it has been recently showing or more to the point over exposed movies. 

 

This thread was started back in August, presumably when CAFE SOCIETY was still in theaters. I'm surprised it's been made available on internet platforms so quickly.  

 

If I get some time this afternoon, I may just watch it today.

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I decided to watch it now. I think I agree with Spence's initial comment that it's okay but not Allen's best.

 

*****

 

I have several problems with it (and there are things I do like about it too).

 

In no specific order, what I don't like--too much name dropping. People in the 30s didn't talk that way. As a result, the film becomes some weird kind of encyclopedia of classic film stars. And sometimes Allen has to explain who they are. He has a character mention Bill Powell, then has the character clarify this means William Powell. Everyone in Hollywood at that time would know who Bill Powell was and probably nobody called him William Powell, except fans reading his billing on screen. 

 

The name dropping is really a problem in the party scenes. The agent keeps saying Greta Garbo is somewhere, that Joan Blondell is floating around, but it's just names, we never see them. And these are supposed to be high-powered parties, where everyone would be in attendance. It's like Woody Allen is afraid to bring them on screen and present them as real characters, which just seems silly. Can you imagine if THE AVIATOR, a story about Howard Hughes, only mentioned Katharine Hepburn, Jean Harlow and Ava Gardner but never showed them? There are plenty of celebrity impersonators Allen could have hired for these scenes.

 

I think Woody's voice-over narration is-- I don't want to sound mean-- not very impressive. His voice is quite shaky. He should work with a therapist to strengthen his voice or have someone else do the narration. It kept taking me out of the story.

 

There's no real chemistry between the actor who plays the uncle (Steve Carrell) and the girl (Kristen Stewart) he supposedly loves so passionately. I think a sexier actor should've been used instead of Carrell. Bruce Willis was originally hired for this role and left the project, but even he doesn't seem right. Meanwhile, it seemed unusual that she had a Masters Degree and she's working as a secretary to him. She didn't really come across as a very educated girl.

 

What I like-- Jeannie Berlin is great as the young guy's mother back in New York. Allen should have built the movie around her. Better yet, a new film should be made with her and Julie Kavner as sisters. That would be something. 

 

Jesse Eisenberg is good as the young lovestruck protagonist, though I do think he's forcing some Allenesque mannerisms. I like the irony that the girl in Hollywood and the girl he ends up marrying in New York have the same first name (Veronica). But I don't think Blake Lively has chemistry with Eisenberg. It's kind of like putting a young Jane Seymour with a young Woody Allen, and that doesn't quite work.

 

The music is wonderful. Plus the costumes are fabulous, and so are the cars and hairstyles. But a clip of Barbara Stanwyck and Gene Raymond in a film glimpsed within the film (THE WOMAN IN RED) shows that women and men from that era actually dressed a bit differently. So basically CAFE SOCIETY is relying on stereotypes and manufactured memories about the 30s; thus, it is not too authentic.

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I love the film - and I wouldn't want to criticize it too heavily on its' failure to establish an authentic Hollywood of the 1930's.

 

Let's say, visually, it's a stylistic take on what 30's Hollywood might've looked and sounded like.

 

To me, the film is about FIRST LOVE - and the permanent "damage" that can linger afterward.

 

However, I do feel that the film has one very real weakness.

 

The stars, Jesse Eisenberg and Kirsten Stewart, are NOT very charismatic screen presences.

 

They put "a dent" in the film's resonance.

 

Imagine if Barbara Stanwyck and Gene Raymond (from "The Woman In Red") had played these roles.

 

Woody Allen is considered today a marginal filmmaker and, for the most part, his films do not make money.

 

And he has been around so long - that critics tend to look down on his varied output - and very real achievements.  

 

What if a youngster had made "Cafe Society" - he'd be showered with praise. 

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I love the film - and I wouldn't want to criticize it too heavily on its' failure to establish an authentic Hollywood of the 1930's.

 

Let's say, visually, it's a stylistic take on what 30's Hollywood might've looked and sounded like.

 

Or what Allen wants it to look and sound like, which makes it very fictional. His use of gangster stereotypes is off-putting. Like when he thinks of the 30s, he thinks of the mafia. It's just not very deep, the way some of his other films are. Plus he covered the mob - show biz stuff in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, so he's kind of repeating himself. 

 

I agree the film is about lingering love, but we were told Bobby had a previous long-term relationship before he originally went out to Hollywood. And it's not her first love either because she's fallen for the uncle before he got there. I think it's really about forbidden, secret entanglements. But again, Allen doesn't really go very deep with the material and his cast has no idea of how to put it over.

 

As I indicated, I liked Eisenberg though he seemed to try awfully hard to be the stand-in Woody Allen on screen. He'd forget to do that sometimes, and his real personality would flow out, especially in the later scenes which seemed more authentic. None of the female love interests in the film had much resonance. They should have both been replaced. The mother (Jeannie Berlin) and the sister were well-played and very much overshadowed the young lovers.

 

I think some of Allen's films fail to make money because they are too whimsical and self-indulgent, and automatically alienate mainstream audiences. Sometimes it's a good thing to see directors work in the margins a bit. But when he miscasts key roles, that is fatal and the pictures do not come across as well as they could with stronger performers.

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Or what Allen wants it to look and sound like, which makes it very fictional. His use of gangster stereotypes is off-putting. Like when he thinks of the 30s, he thinks of the mafia. It's just not very deep, the way some of his other films are. Plus he covered the mob - show biz stuff in BULLETS OVER BROADWAY, so he's kind of repeating himself. 

 

I agree the film is about lingering love, but we were told Bobby had a previous long-term relationship before he originally went out to Hollywood. And it's not her first love either because she's fallen for the uncle before he got there. I think it's really about forbidden, secret entanglements. But again, Allen doesn't really go very deep with the material and his cast has no idea of how to put it over.

 

As I indicated, I liked Eisenberg though he seemed to try awfully hard to be the stand-in Woody Allen on screen. He'd forget to do that sometimes, and his real personality would flow out, especially in the later scenes which seemed more authentic. None of the female love interests in the film had much resonance. They should have both been replaced. The mother (Jeannie Berlin) and the sister were well-played and very much overshadowed the young lovers.

 

I think some of Allen's films fail to make money because they are too whimsical and self-indulgent, and automatically alienate mainstream audiences. Sometimes it's a good thing to see directors work in the margins a bit. But when he miscasts key roles, that is fatal and the pictures do not come across as well as they should with stronger performers.

May earn nods for it's costumes 7 cinematography

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May earn nods for it's costumes 7 cinematography

 

I think so too, spence. And it deserves a nomination/award for the costumes. Without a doubt. 

 

But one thing I can't stand, and all these cinematographers do it-- they overuse warm and soft lighting, as if every scene takes place at 3 in the afternoon. It was quite noticeable in the agent's cavernous office with all the dark wood furniture, how it was all too brightly lit. Plus the gangsters were photographed as if everything they did took place in the sunshine. It's as if the cinematographers are afraid to use shades of grey, or allow scenes to be saturated with cold colors. It's unrealistic to present a ruthless Hollywood agent or a vicious gangster as someone so warm and fuzzy, he's about to sit down with you for tea and scones.

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Ray,

 

I'm glad you posted the picture of them along the bridge. I thought that was one of the better acted scenes. However-- I remember being distracted when I watched the film, in noticing the bridge railing seems freshly painted. There's nothing dirty in this film. A story with gangsters in Depression Era New York, and everything is sparkling clean and freshly painted-- highly unrealistic. 

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They're both virgins - and they make a terrible mistake in walking away from each other.

 

There's a scene where she cancels on having dinner with him, and it looks as if she's just had sex with the uncle. She's been seeing the uncle for a whole year before Bobby arrives in Hollywood-- it doesn't seem to have been platonic. 

 

Earlier he tells the hooker he's had sex but never paid for it. I don't think that's an exaggeration. Though I suppose it could be.

 

As for these two, I didn't feel they had a real significant love they were walking away from. That's what Allen intended us to believe, but with the lack of chemistry between the leads, it just didn't jump off the screen to me.

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I wouldn't know how to categorize this film - the easiest description, "romance", would seem to  downplay its' unique nature - if it is a "romance", then it's one of the darkest possible hue.

 

While it's set up and marketed to appear like a dynamic relationship between the young characters, in some ways I thought Allen's main goal was to give Carrell's character a bit of 'therapy'-- especially the part where he debates leaving his wife for the young girl. He says emphatically that his wife did nothing to alienate him. It seemed like a comment on Allen's own situation with Mia Farrow and his getting involved with and subsequently marrying a younger woman. If you look at it in that context, the 'romance' between the other two is definitely overshadowed. 

 

I also thought Allen, knowing he may be nearing the end of his life, tries in a cloying way to get philosophical about the afterlife. Almost blaming his Jewish religion on the fact they don't believe in anything afterward. Hence, the gangster's conversion to Christianity at the end. But again, Allen is only flirting with the ideas and does not really go deep enough. Ultimately, I think what we have in this film are little concepts about humanity that were never properly fleshed out, and they all get mixed together in a watered down cinematic soup.

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While it's set up and marketed to appear like a dynamic relationship between the young characters, in some ways I thought Allen's main goal was to give Carrell's character a bit of 'therapy'-- especially the part where he debates leaving his wife for the young girl. He says emphatically that his wife did nothing to alienate him. It seemed like a comment on Allen's own situation with Mia Farrow and his getting involved with and subsequently marrying a younger woman. If you look at it in that context, the 'romance' between the other two is definitely overshadowed. 

 

I also thought Allen, knowing he may be nearing the end of his life, tries in a cloying way to get philosophical about the afterlife. Almost blaming his Jewish religion on the fact they don't believe in anything afterward. Hence, the gangster's conversion to Christianity at the end. But again, Allen is only flirting with the ideas and does not really go deep enough. Ultimately, I think what we have in this film are little concepts about humanity that were never properly fleshed out, and they all get mixed together in a watered down cinematic soup.

Yes, I think that the character of The Uncle is very important to the foundation of the film - and, as far as he is concerned, his re-marriage is a successful one.

 

Perhaps Woody Allen is thinking that what he did to Mia Farrow could also happen to him with Soon-Yi Pevin.

 

The tracking shot at the end of this film is phenomenal - the camera moves in a semi-circular arc around Jesse Eisenberg and ends up on the back of his head.

 

As if he is looking forward - to what? - that all of life is a gamble?

 

Do you get what you thought you'd get?

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Yes, I think that the character of The Uncle is very important to the foundation of the film - and, as far as he is concerned, his re-marriage is a successful one.

 

Perhaps Woody Allen is thinking that what he did to Mia Farrow could also happen to him with Soon-Yi Pevin.

 

Yes, and I wouldn't be surprised if Soon-Yi had a long-term boyfriend with someone her own age when she and Allen hooked up. 

 

I think a different, more charismatic actor should have been used to play the uncle. Like there should have been a stronger reason for her to be confused and mixed up about him. In the early stages she was not attracted to Hollywood power, so there had to be some other reason for her to be drawn to him...and that is not really detailed in this film as it should be. They start to seem like pawns, where Allen is pushing the characters back and forth on the proverbial chessboard of love, and it's not very convincing. 

 

The one thing that does work is how the first Veronica flirts with Bobby when she goes to New York later in the story. Her thing seems to be married men, so after he is wed to someone else, she suddenly wants him more than ever. She's a very amoral character (are we to assume that's how Allen views his current wife?).

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Soon-Yi Pevin had to be a very amoral person - she began a secret relationship with her mother's lover - the man who transformed Mia Farrow's acting career - and, despite her mother's on-going pleas, she would not return to her mother's home.

 

Woody Allen took that stain off of Soon-Yi, somewhat, by, eventually, marrying the woman and having children with her.

 

But, today, he could see her as a very wayward personality - like the first Veronica in the film.

 

And, for all we know, she could have been unfaithful to Woody Allen.

 

And he could have insisted on being faithful to her.

 

As I said, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are NOT very charismatic screen personalities and, unfortunately, they do rob the film of the emotional resonance that it was obviously striving for

 

I also agree with you that The Uncle is poorly cast.

 

Steve Carell would not have been been among my choices.

 

If Woody Allen had originally cast Bruce Willis, that, too, would have been a poor choice.

 

I see, as The Uncle, an extremely dynamic man, a man to whom you are attracted to despite your better judgement

 

He would need a great deal of charm, too.

 

No, I wouldn't say that the first Veronica is attracted to married men.

 

Her first real love is Bobby - and that kind of love is very difficult to get over.

 

Bobby will always be her first love - and will always hold an attraction for her.

 

And she will always be Bobby's first love.

 

Even though he has married somebody else and had a child with her.

 

I know that you see the film more in terms of the forbidden areas of human interactions.

 

And that view is a perfectly valid one.

 

But, if the leads were stronger, you might feel differently.

 

Getting over a first love is a near-impossibility.

 

 

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I also agree with you that The Uncle is poorly cast.

 

Steve Carell would not have been been among my choices.

 

If Woody Allen had originally cast Bruce Willis, that, too, would have been a poor choice.

 

I see, as The Uncle, an extremely dynamic man, a man to whom you are attracted to despite your better judgement

 

He would need a great deal of charm, too.

 

The uncle should have been played by someone who was Jewish. Someone like Rob Morrow, Paul Reiser or Dustin Hoffman. A guy who could be charming and cagey.  

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