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By Megan Bianco
It’s sad and slightly humorous when a talented filmmaker grows a reputation for making more misses than hits after years of success—that when a new film of theirs comes out, you think “Well, it wasn’t terrible.” In Woody Allen’s case, his newest effort, Café Society, is decent, but not great either. It’s no charmer like Midnight in Paris (2011), but not dull like Magic in the Moonlight (2014). Despite its silly title, Café Society has its moments.
In the mid-1930s, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) moves to Hollywood, where his uncle Phil (Steve Carell) runs a movie studio, and quickly begins running odd jobs around town. Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) also becomes fast friends with Bobby, fitting his desire for a girlfriend. Back in Bobby’s home state, New York, his brother Ben (Corey Stoll) is attempting to replace his life of crime with owning a nightclub.
Blake Lively and Anna Camp make appearances. The mid-20th century is always a favorite period of Allen’s to set his stories, and here it’s clear he’s having fun name dropping all the old Hollywood stars and directors, though it does get a bit redundant even if he’s aware of it. Eisenberg as the “Woody” character here is a predictable, obvious choice, but it works, while Stewart is the shocking highlight and doesn’t feel out of place in the era set. The two leads have a comfortable presence with each other, most likely because they’ve acted before together. Café Society is a safe and basic by Allen’s standards, but still worthy of a lazy afternoon viewing.