Cafe Society film review: Woody Allen conjures up old Hollywood glamour for this formulaic, but enjoyable, romance

James Luxford
Blake Lively and Jesse Eisenberg in Cafe Society
Cafe Society

The Cannes debut of Woody Allen’s latest film was marred by controversy when French comedian Larent Lafitte made a jibe about the allegations of sexual impropriety made against the director.

The picture itself, however, is a decidedly uncontroversial trip down Tinsel Town’s memory lane. Set in the 1930s, Jesse Eisenberg plays a young man lured to Hollywood from his home in the Bronx, only to fall for the mistress of a Hollywood producer (Kristen Stewart).

The resulting fallout sees him flee home to take on a job running a shady nightclub. Ghosts from his romantic past soon follow.

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The best and worst thing about this glossy wander through showbiz past is how much it feels like his previous work. Eisenberg’s Allen alter ego muses over life and love just like so many of his leading men have done over the years. Unlike previous latter-day high points such as Midnight In Paris or Blue Jasmine, there’s little that catches you off guard here, with events following a well-worn pattern to a familiar conclusion.

However, if you must stick to a formula, there are worse ones to follow. Even in this low gear, the points about relationships are as salient as ever, helped along by Eisenberg in restrained and likeable form. The gorgeous sets lend an air of authenticity to the piece, making golden age starlets out of the often dour Kristen Stewart, and Blake Lively who plays the other woman in Eisenberg’s life.

While Cafe Society doesn’t reach the heights of his recent bests, it’s an enjoyable piece of nostalgia.

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