Jews are the subject of Woody Allen’s Café Society. Jews in Hollywood, Jews in the Bronx, Jews as gangsters. While the story centers on a love triangle between a studio gopher (Jesse Eisenberg), his uncle/bigshot-agent (Steve Carell), and an unpretentious Hollywood assistant (Kristen Stewart), the best parts of the movie focus on the gopher’s Jewish family: his stereotypically neurotic mother (Jeannie Berlin), his putz of a father (Ken Stott), his gangster brother (Corey Stoll), and his stolid sister (Sari Lennick) and her philosophizing husband (Stephen Kunken). These sideshows are hilarious and entertaining, although viewers overly familiar with Allen’s 46 film œuvre may find them derivative and hackneyed. In addition to these byways, Allen digresses by delving, visually and via voiceover, into the piquant lives of the denizens who frequent the club run by the gangster brother. A movie about love found and lost, Café Society is warmly melancholy and wistful. Yet despite the bloodshed and death, contemplated and experienced, the movie maintains a nimble manner. It’s what makes Café Society so enjoyable. That is, besides Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography. As one critic eloquently describes, “shot by Storaro…Southern California and the sparkling Pacific have never looked quite so Mediterranean…the figures rimmed in an amber daylight, the coloration of the deep-focus photography given the pop of stained-glass or hand-painted movie posters.”

By Alec Julian & Carrie White


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