Over a career spanning six decades and more than forty-five films, Woody Allen has undoubtedly seen and learned a lot about Hollywood, movies and the glitz that surrounds it. Now in his eighties, Allen no longer stars in his films, but his life experiences seem to serve as the basis for many of his projects. Allen’s latest effort, Café Society is the kind of non-traditional love story that seems appropriate in Woody’s world.

In 1930’s New York City, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) dreams of leaving the family jewelry business and living a glitzy life in Los Angeles. On a whim, he decides to move to Hollywood, hoping his uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a powerful talent agent, will give him a job. At his uncle’s office, he meets Phil’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who shows him around the city. Despite her access to all the glitz and glamor offers, Vonnie is unimpressed, apparently, content to live a quiet life. A romance quickly develops, though Vonnie confesses she’s already in a relationship. Things get messy when it turns out she has been having an affair with Phil. Eventually, Vonnie must decide between the two men, both of whom she loves.

Woody has made better movies than this and much worse ones. Café Society lands in the middle. It’s not particularly romantic and offers few laughs. However, unlike most romantic comedies, Café Society explores both the ups and downs of a relationship in equal measure.  Eisenberg, Carell, and Stewart are well cast, believable throughout and sympathetic even in those moments when their somewhat unlikeable. Eisenberg’s character, a real fish put of water in Hollywood, strikes you as the young Woody Allen; underneath the nervousness there’s an undeniable intelligence. Eventually, he moves back to New York to run a club with his gangster brother. Gone is the shy, young man unsure of his place in the world. Back on his home turf, Bobby is confident and in charge. In contrast, Vonnie, now married to Phil, has become the kind of Hollywood starlet/socialite she had once dismissed. When Bobby and Phil meet a few years later, the love is still there but it’s interesting to witness they ways in which they’ve both changed.

Beautifully shot by Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now), effectively captures the essence of 1930’s Hollywood and New York City. Los Angeles is awash in sunlight, while New York City has a more autumnal palette of brown’s, greens and slight reds. If you have a taste for films of the 1930’s, Café Society will bring you back to that time and place.

Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.00:1 (16×9 Widescreen), Lionsgate’s 1080p transfer is superb. The colors are vibrant and pop throughout. The image is flawless, leaving viewers with s memorable visual experience.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio serves the film extremely well. Dialogue is clean and clear, as are the jazz infused music selections. There is no distortion or other issues to speak of.

English, English SDH, and Spanish subtitles are included.

As is customary with Woody Allen films, there isn’t a lot in the way of extras:

  • On the Red Carpet (HD, 2:13) features cast and crew offering some very brief thoughts on the film.
  • Photo Gallery (HD) 33 images.
  • DVD
  • Digital HD
  • UltraViolet

Cafe Society (2016)
3.1 Reviewer