Review of the week
Film: Café Society
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll
Director: Woody Allen
Classification: 10 PGV
Reviewer: Peter Feldman
Cinema legend Woody Allen shows no signs of slowing down and his latest cinematic offering returns to his favourite setting — the past.
He has already scrutinised such great cities as Paris, Rome, London and Barcelona through his lens, but Hollywood has proved something of a challenge to him.
With ‘Café Society’, however, Allen has indulged himself a little by carving a romantic, bittersweet ode to an era of Tinsel Town magic – and it’s gloriously funny. The dialogue is bitingly witty and his characters help recreate a Hollywood when it was the dream factory of the world.
The main character is Bobby Dorfman, beautifully played by a commanding Jesse Eisenberg, whose Jewish parents want him to leave the Bronx and make something of himself. They decide to send him to his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a pretentious, cigar-smoking Hollywood talent agent, who invents a menial job for Bobby out of guilt for the family back home.
Uncle Phil is a Hollywood creation; a larger-than-life entity who thrives on rumours, gossip, deals and Martinis and who loves to entertain B-list stars around his lavish swimming pool at sundown. He is adept at dropping famous names without warning and would utter ridiculous sentences such as, “Ginger Rogers has been trying to reach me!”
Phil assigns his pretty assistant Vonnie (Kristen Stewart) to show his naive nephew around on a tour of movie star homes. All Bobby wants to do, really, is meet movie stars and get laid.
Vonnie agrees to spend more time with Bobby, however, warning him that she is involved with a married man. Bobby cannot help but fall for the charms of Vonnie, but when he discovers her lover is Uncle Phil he returns to New York, a disillusioned and broken-hearted man.
Things change in The Big Apple and Bobby is soon linked with another Vonnie (Blake Lively), whom he marries. He also rapidly climbs the Manhattan social ladder by running a glitzy night club, called Café Society, for his brother Benny (played by a smarmy Corey Stoll).
Here people whom Bobby met in Hollywood waft in and out of his new life as a Manhattan celebrity, all of them connected by an association with Benny, who it turns out is a gangster. However his family are totally unaware of his underworld activities. His particular talent is burying his enemies under tons of cement. The acting is uniformly good. Steve Carell, often associated with main stream comedy, plays against type as Uncle Phil. Even Kristen Stewart manages to leave a more substantial mark as Vonnie.
As in most Woody Allen films, this satire is crammed with shrewd observations, anti-Semitic references, rich one-liners and barbs about Jews running Hollywood.
All in all, though, this Hollywood is a figment of the director’s own imagination, reflecting on memories of the old Hollywood as he saw it.
‘Café Society’ is not an intellectual exercise and is quite fluffy in parts. But its crisply conceived, stylishly delivered and one of Woody Allen’s better offerings of late.
Other releases (synopsis)
FILM: THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN
CAST: Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson, Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Allison Janney, Edgar Ramirez, Lisa Kudrow and Laura Prepon
DIRECTOR: Tate Taylor
In this thriller, Rachel (Emily Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.
Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, ‘The Girl on the Train’ is directed by Tate Taylor of ‘The Help’ and ‘Get on Up’ fame.
Although former journalist Paula Hawkins had previously written several books as an author for hire, ‘The Girl on the Train’ was the first novel released under her own name. After its publication in January 2015, Hawkins’ story became one of the fastest-selling novels in history, with more than 15 million copies sold globally. In its first week, ‘The Girl on the Train’ landed in the top spot of The New York Times Best Sellers List. It remained on the list for more than a year, spending much of that time at No. 1. In 2015, it became Amazon’s Best Seller in Books, Most Wished for in Books, as well as its Best Seller in eBooks, while Hawkins was lauded by USA Today as Author of the Year.
The inspiration for her gripping whodunit of witnesses who become suspects was inspired by Hawkins’ daily experiences on the commuter rail through London. “There was one particular route where the train was always breaking down, and I would sit and look into these apartment blocks, and you could see right into someone’s living room,” she recounts. “I was always hoping I’d see something interesting, although I never did. But it started my imagination going, and that’s where the germ of the story came from.”
Told from the perspective of three women, the book’s primary narrator is Rachel, a thirty something commuter on British Rail whose life is a wreck after a failed marriage. While her drinking cost Rachel her job, she continues to take the train into the city, in order to give the impression to her roommate she’s still working.
But Rachel also enjoys obsessing upon the lives of others, while furtively sipping liquor from a water bottle.
In Hawkins’ tale, Rachel’s plunge into the depths of alcoholism clouds her memories. It also fuels her growing paranoia when her investigation into Megan’s disappearance points to the chance that she may have been involved. “That’s when we start to discover that Rachel isn’t particularly reliable at all, and she’s got all these problems that suck her into the story,” says Hawkins. “Her memory loss is key to her sense of who she’s become. She has a twisted sense of guilt and responsibility because she doesn’t remember her actions.” Still Hawkins advises, her protagonist is strong underneath the drama. “Over the course of the book, we see her fight back.”
FILM: MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN
CAST: Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Chris O’Dowd, Ella Purnell, Allison Janney, Rupert Everett, Terence Stamp, with Judi Dench and Samuel L. Jackson
DIRECTOR: Tim Burton
Legendary director Tim Burton directs this feature, based upon the best-selling novel. When Jake (Asa Butterfield) discovers clues to a mystery that spans alternate realities and times, he uncovers a secret refuge known as Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
As he learns about the residents and their unusual abilities, Jake realizes that safety is an illusion, and danger lurks in the form of powerful, hidden enemies.
Jake must figure out who is real, who can be trusted, and who he really is.