Quick Hit: Jesse Eisenberg hits all the Woody Allen stand-in notes in this recent comedy.
Woody Allen’s career path is pretty simple. He hit the Hollywood circuit and everyone loved his movies and his acting. His bumbling, awkward dialogue and delivery had audiences laughing out loud, and his underdog quality had you rooting for him from the start of the film. He has continually put out movies in his later years, though now he tends to stay behind the camera (here he narrates throughout the film). That being said, his characters are written for him, and so you find a continual selection of actors in his movies doing what is essentially an impression of Allen. Here you find Jesse Eisenberg doing just that – a Jew from New York that moves to LA to hit the big time.
For what it’s worth, Eisenberg is pretty spot on with the impression. Before I realized it was a Woody Allen film, that was my first impression of his character – “Hey, he kind of acts like Woody Allen… I wonder who is directing this… Oh.” But, the good thing is that Eisenberg makes it his own. Outside of a few tragic comic scenes – the one with the call girl on her first call comes to mind – Eisenberg is really good. And I think he shows emotion better than even Woody can. There is a scene in the latter half of the film where he is seeing his ex-girlfriend married to another man for the first time and… it’s gut-wrenching, and you see it written across his face.
There are other non-Woody actors though – Steve Carrell as a rich, suave, LA uncle, Kristen Stewart as the primary love interest, and Blake Lively in a secondary role. All are capable, but none stand out to me. Steve Carrell may be the most interesting casting, because he just doesn’t seem to fit the role. He consistently seems to be squirming to find his niche inside the character. Stewart and Lively, though believable in the sense of their beauty, bounce back and forth between believability and unsustainability. They just can’t seem to hold the camera’s attention, almost as if Woody can’t wait to get back to his stand-in.
The dialogue here is typical and enjoyable. The delivery of most scenes is very good, and I thought that the idea of the story was an intriguing one. I wish it would have been tied up more, but I wish that of most Woody films. I think what I most enjoyed about it was the set pieces. From the little New York home, with every shot being claustrophobic, to the wide, open expanses of everything in LA, each piece has something to offer.
Without the sets and Eisenberg, I can see this being average. However, these buoy it up to be slightly above average, and I’m going to give Café Society a “B”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"