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Bobby Dorfman Wants Life In The Cafe Society

Updated on August 6, 2016

Cafe Society takes a look at a man who wishes for more than a life in his father's line of work. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Bobby Dorfman, a young man in 1930s New York who tells his family that he wants a different carer path. His father, Marty (Ken Stott), respects Bobby's wishes. In spite of her reservations, his mother, Rose (Jeannie Berlin) makes a call to a relative, Phil Stern (Steve Carell), a very influential figure in motion pictures in Hollywood. Since Bobby wants to try his hand in the film industry, Phil hires Bobby for an entry-level job at his office running errands. At work, he makes friends with Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), who works for Phil. They soon spend time outside of work together, even though Vonnie tells Bobby she's seeing someone who travels constantly. When the married Phil announces he's leaving his wife, Bobby realizes Vonnie and Phil have been involved. In spite of getting a proposal from Bobby, she stays with Phil.

Alone, Bobby heads back to New York, where he'd already made plans to be the host in a nightclub owned by his brother Ben (Corey Stoll), a gangster known for his nefarious activities. Through Rad Taylor (Parker Posey), a friend he met at one of Uncle Phil's parties, Bobby meets Veronica Hayes (Blake Lively), a divorced public relations worker who takes Bobby's mind off the past. They quickly go from dating to marriage and a family. The past soon comes back to pay a visit to the brothers in different ways.

Cafe Society is an enjoyable period piece from writer-director Woody Allen. Allen has visited this period of the twentieth century before in films such as Zelig, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, and Midnight In Paris. These earlier films have plenty of laughs, but Allen's humor is a little drier and more familiar here. I had a few laughs, but I found myself smiling more than laughing. A theme Allen often uses is prevalent here. Bobby, Vonnie, and Phil find themselves between lovers for half of the movie, trying to make an ultimate decision of one over the other. The closing sequence shows how they're living with their choices. Allen also has a contrast between the Dorfman family and the Dorfman siblings. Marty and Rose live a simpler life, while their sons want more. The Dorfman daughter Evelyn (Sari Lennick) lives contentedly as a housewife while her husband Leonard (Stephen Kunken) works as an educator. The cinematography, as usual for an Allen film, is a highlight. Vittorio Storaro provides lovely shots of Hollywood and club life, but shows the Dorfman home dimly lit. A moment at the house shows why the brothers wanted something different for themselves.

The leads are quite good as well. Eisenberg impresses as a young man who wants to know a better life, and gets lessons on the good and bad of his decision. He learns that getting his foot inside the proverbial door is not easy, waiting weeks to meet Phil. Yet, he remains focused on his course to be friendly, outgoing, and welcoming among the rich and famous. Getting personal, though, isn't so easy, as he finds out with a nervous escort named Candy (Anna Camp), and later with Vonnie. Carell is solid as one of the models that Bobby uses to pattern his life. He can be as personal and charming as he has to be at his work, yet be so torn about leaving his wife. Stewart does a nice job as Vonnie, a young woman who is somewhat truthful about her relationship status, yet finds herself drawn to Bobby, and eventually has to make a choice between coasts. Stoll is enjoyable as Ben, who deals with problems with bullets and cement, and makes a comical conversion to Catholicism. Posey adds engaging support as the personable Rad, as does Lively as Veronica, the woman who takes Bobby to a new phase of life. Allen himself narrates the tale of Bobby.

Cafe Society takes a look at a young man who makes plans for himself, and the plans he didn't expect to make. The movie talks about roads not taken, and how they are not worth taking if not chosen. The movie shows the temptation to chart another course, and the choices the characters make that lead them to the places they go. Allen once again visits familiar thematic territory, and finds, unlike other recent movies of his, a story that isn't trite or stale. Bobby Dorfman is a character who's always eager to please, and never willing to hurt anybody on purpose. He may be living and working in the cafe society, but he wants it to be a good society as well.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Cafe Society three stars. Pay a visit to Bobby.


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      Pat Mills 20 months ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      Indeed, Mel, Woody Allen remains prolific, as has fellow director Clint Eastwood, both of whom are now in their eighties. Allen, I know, isn't everybody's favorite comic or director. His earlier work tended to focus on laughs, but he developed a stronger sense of story and presentation - and sometimes drama - as he continued. Annie Hall remains one of my all-time favorite films. In spite of some unimpressive work, I enjoy catching up to his movies because there's usually something to like in them. Thanks for reading.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 20 months ago from San Diego California

      I never really got Woody Allen, probably because I tried to watch his movies when I was very young and I wasn't mature enough to understand. It's hard to believe he is still cranking them out. Great hub!