In the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York, he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life.
Run Time: 1 hr 36 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) is a New Yorker to the core, but he’s also ambitious in a way that the city can’t accommodate. Fortunately, Bobby has a connection that might be useful: his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a high-powered Hollywood agent who has thoroughly mastered multitasking even though it’s the 1930s.
At first, Phil isn’t too keen on welcoming his nephew into his world. But he slowly comes around, and it’s not long before his assistant Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) is acting as Bobby’s guide to Tinseltown. Vonnie’s charms — and her lack of pretension — are such that Bobby finds himself falling in love despite her gentle attempts to discourage him.
Bobby is so persistent, however, that Vonnie has a change of heart. But she also has a secret that thwarts their romance — and prompts Bobby to return to New York, where he joins his gangster brother Ben (Corey Stoll) in running a nightclub that soon becomes the place to be for the rich and famous.
Time goes by, and Bobby and Vonnie become quite different people than they were when they met. But one night, as he’s attending to guests in his bustling nightclub, he sees a familiar face.
“Café Society” is among writer-director Woody Allen’s better films of recent years — deeper than “Midnight in Paris” (2011) and funnier than “Blue Jasmine” (2013). Superficially, the new film is reminiscent of “Bullets Over Broadway” (1994), which was set in the 1920s and also featured a criminal element. But whereas that story was mostly played for laughs, this time Allen achieves a poignancy that lingers long after the screen fades to black.
In his best performance since “The Social Network,” Eisenberg is perfectly cast as the neurotic Bobby. But the film truly belongs to Stewart, who brings to Vonnie a haunting luminousness.
A love story drenched in nostalgia, “Café Society” is a film of rare beauty.