by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
Café Society, Woody Allen’s recent film, is somewhat of a surprise and very ironic that Allen would offer a film wrought with faith and morals. But ethics and ethnicity abound in this movie.
Set in the 1930s, Bronx boy Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg) is sent to California by his “one liner” Yiddish parents to tap his Hollywood Agent Uncle Phil (Steve Carrel) for some kind of job in the Industry.
Eventually, Uncle Phil warms up to Bobby and he takes him under his wing. Phil is a rampant name-dropper, and the Hollywood of the 1930s is aglow names that Phil throws around. Unfortunately, the names are lost on the boomer crowd of movie-goers of today and Woody Allen would have done us a service if, somewhere in his tired sounding narration, he could have taken a short break and told the audience who the 1930 movie idols were.
The music, the costumes, wardrobe and imagery truly transport the audience back in time. And, as if on a set on the backlot of MGM studios, one can almost believe and understand the convincing portrayal of the power dynamics of the 1930s film industry.
For a light romance with a traditional story line of love found, love lost, and love lamented it is entertaining, but not memorable. In the film category of ‘romantic tragedy’ this film is near the top. There are moments of laughter but the overarching sadness in this film is palpable.
If you like Woody Allen’s style and some of his past films, this is a satisfying film. It’s a palatable film for movie-goers who aren’t particularly fond of Allen. But whatever your opinion of him, this is definitely not a ‘feel good’ movie. However, it may challenge your convictions of right and wrong. It also may reaffirm them.
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels