Cast shines in a won­der­ful study of love

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MOVIES - By Colin Covert Star Tri­bune (Min­neapo­lis)

In the 1930s, while Amer­ica re­cov­ered from the bleak­ness of the Great De­pres­sion, the film in­dus­try de­liv­ered el­e­gant char­ac­ter-driven entertainment that felt like love af­fairs be­tween its beau­ti­ful stars and the pub­lic. It was an en­chant­ing make­be­lieve li­ai­son, some­times an imag­i­nary in­fi­delity, a tryst that any­one could ex­pe­ri­ence for pocket change.

It was a de­light­ful con job, and its ap­peal draws young Bobby Dorf­man (Jesse Eisen­berg), the pro­tag­o­nist of Woody Allen’s


“Café So­ci­ety,” from New York City to Los An­ge­les.

Aban­don­ing his veryJewish fam­ily in the Bronx, he goes west to work as an er­rand boy for his un­cle Phil (Steve Carell), a hot­shot talent agent for a sta­ble of stars. Phil’s be­guil­ing, but ro­man­ti­cally un­avail­able as­sis­tant Von­nie (Kristen Stewart), a former ac­tress hope­ful, likes Bobby’s com­pany and en­joys tak­ing him to see Joan Craw­ford’s house and Bar­bara Stan­wyck movies.

It isn’t long be­fore Bobby finds him­self fall­ing head over for­lorn heels in love with her. His con­fused heart wants what it wants, even when it’s not avail­able. Bobby, who is neu­rotic, sar­cas­tic and ex­as­per­ated, takes cau­tious steps into the shal­lows of real courtship in hope of win­ning her from her hush-hush lover.

The sec­ond act fol­lows Bobby as his am­bi­tions take him back to New York City to help run a swank nightclub. The third re­vis­its is­sues from the be­gin­ning, when Bobby felt Von­nie was the only per­son in the world.

It’s easy to see why he might have be­lieved that; Stewart is ir­re­sistible here. Allen is a leg­endary direc­tor of women, and Stewart’s per­for­mance is shock­ingly good, award­scal­iber work. The shal­low sul­len­ness she dis­played in the “Twi­light” films is in­vis­i­ble. Here she’s held in ex­tended close-ups, stun­ning not just for her beauty but also for her pres­ence.

This is far from a small en­sem­ble piece or a nar­rowly fo­cused story. There are ex­cel­lent, com­pli­cated char­ac­ter parts for a di­verse cast, each role seen from a well-com­posed per­spec­tive.

One of the best late-pe­riod Allen films, “Café So­ci­ety” is a won­der­ful study on the ways love (and re­ally all of life) moves in its own di­rec­tion, how­ever we might hope to steer it. It sees a big dif­fer­ence be­tween what one sets out to make in life and what one winds up with. What you set out to make ex­ists al­ways in fan­tasy. Then when you do it, ev­ery morn­ing the truck pulls up to de­liver new com­pro­mises.

Bobby may say it best when he passes along valu­able ad­vice about our pas­sage through this com­edy of cru­elty: “Live ev­ery day like it’s your last and one day you’ll be right.”

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