A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Cafe Society is 1930s-set Woody Allen comedy about old Hollywood that, while generally lighthearted, does deal with edgier themes, including infidelity and organized crime. There's no nudity but plenty of innuendo, as well as some kissing; language is infrequent but includes "hell" and "bulls--t." There are also scenes showing mobsters at work, which includes threatening their rivals, beating them up, and shooting them -- though none of the violent parts are at all graphic. Characters drink and smoke (accurate for the era), and there are brief references to "reefer" and "dope."
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What's the story?
Young Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) has ambitions beyond working with his father in Brooklyn, so he heads to Hollywood to become an assistant to his Uncle Phil (Steve Carrell), a very successful agent. Phil enlists his employee, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), to show Bobby the ropes. Though Vonnie says she has a boyfriend, Bobby can't help but fall in love; he dreams of returning to New York with her and starting a life together in Greenwich Village. As it turns out, Vonnie's "boyfriend" is actually Uncle Phil, and she's wants to stick with him, so back to the East Coast Bobby goes. There he helps his brother, Ben (Corey Stoll), a nightclub owner with ties to the mob, run his joint, which Bobby polishes up and turns into a destination for the CAFE SOCIETY. Though Bobby marries a beautiful woman named Veronica (Blake Lively), whom he calls Vonnie, he still can't stop thinking about the original Vonnie, who -- what do you know? -- shows up one day with Bobby's uncle.
Is it any good?
In some ways, this comedy shows director Woody Allen in fine form, weaving together social commentary, Hollywood history, romance, and doubt, into one of his classic cinematic quilts. It's wonderful to see him working in New York again -- nobody casts as romantic a sheen on the city as Allen -- but Cafe Society feels more like a pastiche than one of Allen's potent, pungent masterpieces.
Still, part of the joy of any Woody Allen movie is watching a ensemble come to life, and they do. Jeannie Berlin (as Bobby's mother), Stoll, and Parker Posey (as Rad Taylor), are delightful. Eisenberg does well as the required Allen stand-in, infusing his role with pathos; Stewart is luminous and much more naturalistic than we've seen in years, though she feels as if she belongs in more modern times, and that anachronistic sense somewhat dilutes her performance. Ultimately, Cafe Society is fun but feels like a lesser version of Allen's greatest hits.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Cafe Society's take on destiny and romance. Is it romantic or cynical? Can it be both?
Woody Allen's movies are said to be fairly similar to one another. How does this one compare to his others? Does he have different themes/types of movies in his canon?
Is it OK to include smoking in a modern movie that happens to be set during a time when it was common practice? What impact could that have on viewers?
Compared to his brother, Bobby is portrayed as charming and benign, though he's acutely aware of his brother's criminal ways. Does the film make it seem like that's OK? Is his role sanitized?
- In theaters: July 15, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: October 18, 2016
- Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Parker Posey
- Director: Woody Allen
- Studio: Amazon Studios
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: some violence, a drug reference, suggestive material and smoking
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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