The problem with having a birthday at the beginning of September is that there are never any films out. My only option was Woody Allen‘s Café Society, which failed to usurp Guy Ritchie‘s RocknRolla as my worst ever birthday movie.
Although he seldom steps in front of the camera, Woody Allen never stopped putting himself in his films. He’s just played by younger actors doing Woody Allen impressions, in this case Jesse Eisenberg. The 1930s drama follows Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg), a young New Yorker who goes to Hollywood to work for his uncle Phil (Steve Carell) and quickly falls for his secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart, who could scarcely look less like she’s from the 1930s).
Café Society goes through the motions of a Woody Allen film, complete with jazz soundtrack, Jewish humour and that font (to quote The Trap). But there are a number of his trademarks missing, such as philosophy and satire. His films have always been romantic, but Allen no longer seems particularly interested in the more (for want of a better word) interesting dimensions of his filmography.
While the old-fashioned romance is perfectly pleasant, the stakes are so low that even scenes of murder feel inconsequential. Warmly shot in soft browns and glowing yellows, the film feels romanticised to the point of inauthenticity. The movie is a love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Age, much like this year’s Hail, Caesar! but with little of the Coen brothers’ spark and plenty of pointless narration by Allen himself.
My birthday might be over, but Café Society marks another annual tradition: being disappointed by the new Woody Allen film. His 47th picture may not be offensively bad like RocknRolla or Match Point, but there’s nothing to recommend it. It’s just sort of there.