Cafe Society - Cold Coffee
| The last 5 minutes of Woody Allen's Cafe Society are somewhat magical. His cinematography morphs from its usual static, pedestrian approach to a whimsical turn. His characters find a momentary slice of lovely melancholy which is pregnant with feeling and meaning. And then the film ends. Unfortunately to get there the audience had to endure almost 90 minutes of pure unadulterated boredom. I was just about to declare Allen was all out of ideas when he hit an all too brief sweet spot which reminded me of some of his best work. It didn't break me out of my anger for making be suffer the rest of the movie but at least it gave me hope he may not be done yet.
Cafe Society has elements of many of Allen's recent films whose theme seems to be making excuses for bad behavior. Following one's heart is a lovely idea when it's not about twisting morality into pretzels to justify exploiting vulnerable people around you. So much of the movie is about choices and the losses that come about from those choices. But it's all about making his point, not about telling us a compelling story.
This film is an essay not a movie. Characters explain whatever is happening in their heads. Their conversations are treatises not dialogue. I've always loved how characters talk in Allen's great films. They generally wonderfully intelligent, witty conversations, like we're watching Dorothy Parker and her friends discuss sex and art and love. But lately, Allen's work has felt a lot less Parker and more, angry old man. Allen actually narrates this film but when he's not narrating, he has his characters narrate what they are doing. His dialogue here is almost exactly like this:
"I just walked into this room and now I'm feeling really conflicted about you." People just explain what they are doing and feeling. Instead of having conversations they just narrate what they are doing. It gets really tired really fast.
And when did Allen lose his sense of humour? I maybe laughed once, smiled a couple of times. All sense of wit seems gone in his work. So the story is boring and humourless. No characters were engaging in any way. I couldn't wait for it to be over. And then the film finds a beautiful little moment, a moment that the rest of the movie doesn't deserve.
Cafe Society is mostly bad, and then there is an incredible moment. I'm not sure it's worth waiting through for it, but if you do watch it, know at least there is a little light at the end of the tunnel.