Written & directed by Woody Allen
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carell, Kristen Stewart, Corey Stoll & Parker Posey
Feature running time: 1 hour and 36 minutes
UK release date: 2nd September 2016
In the 1930s, a young Bronx native moves to Hollywood, where he falls in love with the secretary of his powerful uncle, an agent to the stars. After returning to New York, he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life. (Source: IMDB)
Now being only the fifth film I’ve seen from Woody Allen, this is one of his more better recent efforts. It’s common knowledge that any film director with a filmography that spans about 40 years or so in the film industry is susceptible to making a few hit and misses every now and again and this certainly applies to Allen, a director who often learns from past mistakes and fully intends to keep making movies that fill us with sweet joy.
Also narrating the story this time, he invites and transports audiences back to the 1930s into the Hollywood golden era of glamorous and glitzy movie show business. Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg), a young Jewish New Yorker, arrives in Tinseltown to make a living and a name for himself but without having the big dreams and ambitions of wanting to become a movie star. He’s more interested in doing errands for such big stars, here and there around town. Phil Stern (Carell), Bobby’s uncle, is the biggest and most respectable agent to all the big A-list stars, who enlists his secretary Vonnie (Stewart) to show Bobby around the neighbourhood. As they get more acquainted with each other, Bobby finds himself falling head over heels in love with Vonnie; slowly realising over time that he’s becoming part of a pretty tricky and awkward love triangle which also serves as the main driving force at the helm of this movie. And that’s just the start of Bobby’s problems…
Utilising the same recognisable jazz score in setting the right tone and mood for such a lighthearted comedy drama is something we’ve come to know and love from Allen, putting us back into familiar territory again. Eisenberg is well suited in playing a hopeless romantic in wanting nothing more than pure happiness when finding his true love.
Yet again, Carell is on electrifying form after being on such a roll of delivering nuanced, excellent performances that shows off more of his serious acting chops. After giving such Oscar attractive turns in Foxcatcher and The Big Short, I hope he keeps surprising us with these kind of roles for a good long while yet.
Remorse and regret are recurring themes that Allen likes to incorporate into most, if not all of his movies and here these are just the kind of ideal themes that really help strengthen the somewhat difficult love triangle that I mentioned earlier in making it the beating heart of this love story. Allen has always been interested in engaging his viewers more by introducing other plot strands that are intertwined with the main story, making his leading characters all the more complex and developed.
By the end credits, you realise you’ve just watched a film that is quite poignant and sentimental in it’s encroaching nature. Again, these are also both recurring themes that run through Allen’s films.
I can’t help but go away with a slightly crushing disappointment that Allen still hasn’t made another film yet that can quite reach the towering heights of Blue Jasmine or Annie Hall. Maybe its just me though, I expect too much when really I should just settle with the acknowledgement that we’ll probably never get a better film than those two. Still, its not all bad though when I consider this a big improvement on Magic in The Moonlight, another recent effort that is easily the worst I’ve seen so far from Allen.
Some people would say this film offers nothing new, its pretty repetitive, predictable and all too familiar that we’ve come to expect from Woody Allen. He may be sticking to the same routine of playing it safe, but its films like this that really capture the movie magic I’ve grown to love from Allen that has never failed to completely spellbind me.