Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review of 'Cafe Society'

One of the better of Woody Allen's more recent films - a love triangle tale set against the background of 1940s Hollywood and New York. A young, slightly awkward Jewish kid moves to LA to get a job with his big-shot agent uncle, who ignores for a while and then makes him a sort of personal gopher. He develops a relationship with the boss's beautiful PA, who has an absent boyfriend but really likes our goofy hero, only the absent boyfriend turns out to be the uncle-boss, who is married.

There's a proper plot, and a sub-plot involving the family back home in New York, which features a gangster brother - who acquires a nightclub that eventually becomes the eponymous 'Cafe Society'. It's beautifully shot, full of beautiful women in gorgeous clothes, with both Hollywood and New York looking stunning. A nice soundtrack with lots of Jazz clarinet.

It's a little bit shallow, but not as silly as some of Allen's recent efforts, and a nice mix of humour and pathos. Others have drawn attention to the way in which it's an idealised white version of the 1940s, and it is - the only Black people I noticed were Jazz musicians in a dive bar to which the goofy hero improbably brings his lovers, the only Hispanics the staff in an improbably picturesque cheap restaurant. It's also noteworthy how it's mainly the working-class Jewish characters who provide the laughs, like the crude mechanicals in a Shakespeare play; in the days of Annie Hall the WASPs were also funny, and here they are mainly not - though there are some laughs about the way the tall blonde Oklahoma beauty that the hero eventually marries thinks of Jews as exotic (probably not all that silly or unlikely in the real 1940s).

Watched at Woodford Odeon with my mum and brother.

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