Since tackling the Russian Revolution in 1975’s Love And Death, Woody Allen has frequently used historical settings for his films. Although very different pieces, Purple Rose Of Cairo, Radio Days, Broadway Danny Rose and Sweet And Lowdown all circled the early part of the 20th century – and in recent years Allen has sharpened his focus to the 1920s and Thirties. Midnight In Paris and Magic In The Moonlight both took place during the Jazz Age – Midnight In Paris explicitly so, as it featured many literary players from that era – and Café Society shunts the action forward a decade or so to the 1930s. There, in New York, we meet a typically Allen-esque lead – Bobby Dorfman, played by Jesse Eisenberg – who finds himself in Hollywood, where he takes a job with his uncle Phil, a talent agent, played by Steve Carrell. Soon, a delicious farce gets underway as both Bobby and Phil find themselves chasing the same girl – Kristen Stewart’s secretary Veronica. Although the leads are charming and the tone is amiable, events does not entirely end well for any of the key players.
Café Society was released in cinemas 40 years after Allen’s directorial debut, What’s Up Tiger Lily? And much as you’d expect after four decades behind the camera, Allen is now so adept at filmmaking that the mechanics of plot and character are almost second nature to him. Indeed, it is possible to watch Café Society and simply marvel at the artfulness and deceptive ease with which Allen constructs his story. While Allen has suffered from poor patches during his career – the mid Noughties, particularly – there are few filmmakers who have managed to sustain such an impressive track record. while Café Society might not scale the peaks of his peerless Seventies/Eighties run of films, nevertheless it is an expertly delivered romantic comedy.