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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Go west, young man.

Cafe Society (2016) on IMDb

Plot Overview

As evening descends over the Hollywood hills a poolside gathering in the latter 1930s of the rich & famous is bathed in a soft, saturated Techni­color glow. Success­ful agent Phil Stern (Steve Carell) is holding court, awaiting an important phone call from Ginger Rogers. His wife Karen Stern (Sheryl Lee), a fixture of 25 years, is there, too. The phone rings. He takes it, to hear in a Bronx accent, “Phil, it's Rose your sister.” Phil's sister Rose Dorfman (Jeannie Berlin) is calling from New York to tell him, “Bobby is coming to Hollywood.”

Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) is “my son, your nephew … and he doesn't know a soul out there.” He'd found his father Marty's (Ken Stott) jewelry business “stultifying.” Staying behind is also his sister Evelyn (Sari Lennick) who's a school­teacher married to Leonard (Stephen Kunken) a Jewish intel­lectual, their daughter (Laurel Griggs), and Bobby's gangster brother Ben (Corey Stoll).

Two weeks later Bobby checks into the third class Ali Baba Motel. Ben uses his connections to supply Bobby with a Jewish hooker named “Candy” (Anna Camp), but they lack the magic words to hit it off. Phil relents to Bobby's pressure. Despite appearances of nepotism, he gives him some cockamamie title and has him do odd jobs for him running trivial errands. He has his super­fluous, knock­out, extra secretary Vonnie—short for Veronica—(Kristen Stewart) escort him around town. Vonnie loves Bobby's “deer in the head­lights quality” as he becomes infatuated with her, but she's already seeing some­one, a mystery man.

This being a Woody Allen film, things start getting complicated. Vonnie has two marriage proposals to consider (“I'm very confused; can you blame me?”) Which­ever she chooses will make her an aunt or a niece by marriage to the Dorfmans. Ben also offers Bobby a proposal to return to New York to help him run his new night­club. There's another Veronica in New York, recently divorced. Divorce can happen on both east and left coasts, but in Holly­wood, it seems, one needs less of an excuse.


Since Karen has always been an exemplary wife to Phil, it's a real betrayal that he takes a mistress on the sly. (Malachi 2:14) “Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treach­er­ously: yet is she thy com­panion, and the wife of thy covenant.”

The formula is that two become one in marriage. (Malachi 2:15) “And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And where­fore one? That he might seek a godly seed. There­fore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treach­er­ously against the wife of his youth.” When Phil is ordering on the phone 50 roses for his mistress, and his wife walks in, he uses the subter­fuge of business-speak talking about “50%”, then when she walks out he changes the order to 100. Being one means 100% commitment, not 50% shared with a lover, and then giving the lover 100%.

He's on the way to D-I-V-O-R-C-E. (Malachi 2:16) “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: there­fore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treach­er­ously.” Ben the gangster was murdering people left and right. The one shot in the barber's chair was already covered in a garment (sheet), but the rest got dumped in an excavation pit and covered with cement. The bodies could still be dug up, but it would take a jack­hammer. By analogy a divorce (i.e. putting away) will in practice separate one from his spouse, but there's still a live body kicking around some­where if one were to look for it, until death do them part according to the vow.

This movie will show that divorce and remarriage puts a kink in intergenerational relations. Every Jew knows the prophet Elijah is to come some day and fix relations between fathers and sons. This per, (Malachi 4:5-6) “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Elijah's remembered by Jews every year at their seder by a chair left vacant in antici­pation of his arrival. The seder we see in this movie (“It's so nice to get together for the seder”) is missing Elijah's chair. There's no explanation given except for the tenor of the movie as a whole that (Jewish) director Woody Allen is not too keen on preserving the nuclear family.

Bobby remarks that in Hollywood any meal is preceded by coffee whether one wants in or not. He was offered “Candy” upon his arrival, and he propositioned Veronica upon first meeting her. Thus Café Society is a meta­phor for a sexual society where sexual gratification comes first, before family commitments even.

Production Values

This film, “” (2016) was directed by Woody Allen who also wrote it. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Steve Carell. Great performances were delivered by all three. Jesse Eisenberg took on the kind of role usually reserved by Allen. At least he didn't stutter, but neither did he captivate or play it cool. He seemed too full of New Yorkiness for my taste, although that's what the role called for and he did it well.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some violence, a drug reference, suggestive material and smoking. The sound­track is packed with Rogers and Hart songs as well as jazz music from the 20s and 30s. Brilliant cinema­tog­raphy by Vittorio Storaro made use of silhouette, glowing close-ups, and graphic compositions to produce picture-perfect camera work.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Although I'm pretty tolerant of a wide range of artistic license in movies, Woody Allen often leaves me out in the cold by reason of his twisted family values that seem to bleed through onto his pictures. That said, he's a genius at writing and directing. If you can stomach him, you'll probably love it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years with guidance. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four stars out of five.