A naive young Brooklynite (Jesse Eisenberg) heads west to work for his uncle's talent agency, a power player (Steve Carell) during the glamorous,Golden Age of Hollywood of the 1930s, and winds up romancing his gorgeous, down to earth secretary (Kristen Stewart) who is surreptitiously carrying on with the vapid, extremely wealthy name dropper. Returning to New York languishing though more confidant, he works in his gangster brother's nightclub, marries a beautiful WASP (Blake Lively), but never loses the flicker of that faded romance. Even though Cafe Society feels like a continuation of Radio Days (we keep returning to Eisenberg's family of middle class eccentrics) blended with strained Fitzgerald, and with more than a minor assist to Billy Wilder's The Apartment, though I still don't subscribe to the common notion that "Woody Allen just makes the same movie over and over again" (a comment which I caught when leaving the theater). Exquisitely shot by Vittorio Storaro, this one takes a minute to settle in, as does its star who finds his footing after initially wanting to do a beat for beat Allen impersonation, and has some great, quiet scenes with Stewart. When all the elements aren't in place, when material feels recycled, and even when many of the one-liners don't land, I've always walked away from Woody's films much like his leading man in choosing to remember their finest moments.
*** out of ****