Everybody remembers his or her first love. That youthful, blissful time in ones life when their heart takes on a new euphoric pulse so powerful one could truly believe they may implode with happiness. Then comes the painful day that very high shatters that same heart into a million pieces for one reason or another. As humans, we never forget that wonderful, early feeling using it and it’s lessons to navigate into the next relationship. For some though, they long for a past love their whole lives. And so we meet Bobby Dorfman in Café Society, Woody Allen’s latest nebbish, love-sick protagonist.
Moving from the Bronx to Hollywood in the 1930s, a naïve Bobby (played brilliantly by Jesse Eisenberg), sets to make his fortune working alongside his uncle, big-time agent Phil Stern (Steve Carell). What he doesn’t plan for is completely falling in love with Nebraskan Vonnie (short for Veronica and played by Kristen Stewart). Here, through a golden-drenched filter, we are introduced to an interesting and eclectic mix of a lady-like Vonnie and dishevelled albeit level-headed Stewart. Wearing a bow in her hair and a lovely period wardrobe which includes much Chanel, Stewart slouches in the car and orders a beer at the restaurant. At first, it didn’t seem to fit. A few minutes in, you really begin to see what a powerful actress Stewart is as she brings little parts of herself to the role.
Although a very simple script, Allen’s literal narration helps us through. The New York Times branded this predictable Allen trait as almost lazy; “For every snappy scene or exchange there are three or four that feel baggy and half-written”. And it’s true. You’ll find yourself invested in the emotional chemistry between Stewart and Eisenberg and before you know it, there’s a swish line to reveal he’s found a new Vonnie in Blake Lively because his original Vonnie has, in true Allen style, chosen an older man in Phil. This latter relationship isn’t at all believable but as an audience we feel incredibly sad for Bobby. Eisenberg is to be credited for this. He’s just that good at making us feel within a modest script that otherwise wouldn’t.
Yes, everybody remembers their first love. Much like everybody remembers this Woody Allen plotline; boy falls in love with girl only for girl to be whisked away by older man. But, Eisenberg and a poised Stewart (who reportedly got together to discuss whether they could work with a director who had such serious accusations of sexual assault of minors against him) are highly watchable and well worth the $13.50 cinema visit.
Café Society is in Australian cinemas October 20