By Kathryn Whitney Boole
Woody Allen knows how to take two poignant protagonists through a meandering storyline populated with intriguing characters and wrap them up in a beautiful package of social commentary with a bow of nostalgia. That said, watching his movies feels more like going through a laundry basket of colorful treasures than watching a fireworks show. Your head is not going to be “flung around” watching a Woody Allen movie. No explosions or special effects. However, the dialogue is full of sarcasm and philosophical black humor. You have to put your mind to that.
“Café Society” is built around a line spoken in typical Allen understatement by one of the characters: “Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living … but the examined one is no bargain either.” The scenes are beautifully choreographed visions of faces. Each scene has a color theme that sets its emotional tone and represents the level of society in which it takes place. In the opening scene, a powerful Hollywood agent of the 1930’s era (Steve Carell) gives away his underlying insecurity by continuously telling all within earshot that he’s expecting a call from Ginger Rogers about representation.
The surroundings are elegant and lavish, a high society cocktail party around a designer swimming pool and Bauhaus style house (cutting-edge architecture for the ’30s). All is highlighted in a magical glowing blue as if it’s a dream world. Afternoon Hollywood mogul parties are washed in the gold tones of the Southern California sun. This story’s hero, the ubiquitous “Woody Allen” character (Jesse Eisenberg) comes from a humble working class background. His family dining room table is shown in muted browns and earth tones, quite a contrast from the office of the agent, who is his uncle. Early in the movie we see that richly appointed office decorated in deep rich browns and reds.
Allen has also mastered the art of casting extremely talented actors and eliciting nuanced and fascinating characters from them. He casts mega-stars and veteran character actors side by side, in roles of equal weight, to create a superb ensemble: Carell and Eisenberg join Jeannie Berlin, Corey Stoll, Anna Camp, Kristen Stewart, Parker Posey and Blake Lively for this film. His team of filmmakers is the best in the business. Cinematographer Vittoria Stararo has won three Oscars for his work.
Do see “Café Society” and prepare to immerse yourself in a work of art.
Rated PG-13. 96 minutes.
Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. Reach her at email@example.com. For previously published reviews, see https://kwboole.wordpress.com.