Review: Stewart shines in Woody Allen’s ‘Café Society’
Jazz and booze, love and marriage, fidelity and infidelity, New York and California: These are the things on Woody Allen’s mind in “Café Society,” the writer-director’s charming ’30s-set comedy.
If it doesn’t reach the heights of Woody’s best — 2013’s “Blue Jasmine” was his last great film — it still has several rich touches, including a luminous performance by Kristen Stewart.
Stewart makes her Woody debut as Vonnie, a secretary at a Hollywood studio caught in a love triangle between her boss Phil (Steve Carell) and his nephew, Bobby (Jessie Eisenberg, who also appeared in Woody’s “To Rome With Love”).
The story — it’s narrated by Woody, who sounds noticeably shakier than the Woody of old — bounces back and forth between the coasts. Bobby leaves his home in Brooklyn to become a writer in Hollywood and eventually winds up back in New York, where he runs the swanky jazz club of the title.
Vonnie is never far from the frame, and Stewart brings extraordinary balance to a role that could easily be one-note or duplicitous. Her headstrong self-confidence radiates off the screen in a deft performance that deserves to be in the conversation come Oscar time.
Now 80, Woody Allen has been cranking out a movie a year since the Nixon years, a pace difficult to match across the arts. (This is his 46th film.) He’s forgiven for the occasional clunker, and “Café Society” has a go-nowhere mob subplot that threatens to push it toward that pile. But the pluses outweigh the minuses, and Woody finishes with a handsome closing shot that will stick with you until his next movie opens, same time next year.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, a drug reference, suggestive material and smoking
Running time: 96 minutes