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CAFÉ SOCIETY (2016) **

Jesse Eisenberg stars as a meek New Yorker who heads to Hollywood and gets a job with his uncle (Steve Carell), who is a big shot agent to the stars. Eisenberg winds up falling in love with his uncle’s secretary (Kristen Stewart) and he proposes to her after a whirlwind courtship, unaware that she’s actually in love with his uncle. After that relationship blows up in his face, he returns to New York where he gets a job running a nightclub for his gangster brother (Corey Stoll). Years pass, and Eisenberg is happily married, but trouble brews when his uncle and his former flame come to New York for an extended visit.

Woody Allen’s output has been hit-and-miss of late. For every enjoyable film like Magic in the Moonlight, there’s inevitably a frustrating flick like Irrational Man. I guess we should just be thankful that the man is still cranking them out at the age of 80. I just wish this one was funnier.

As it is, it kind of falls into that middle ground of Allen’s films. It’s not really funny enough to be labeled a comedy and the dramatic stuff isn’t involving enough for it to work as a straight-up drama. The script is fairly weak too and it feels more like a first draft than the final shooting script. The punchlines are few and far between and lack any real zing to them. They almost feel like placeholders for actual jokes than the real McCoy.

The performances range from aloof to curiously flat. Steve Carell looks particularly out-of-sorts as the Hollywood mogul. It doesn’t help that most of his dialogue requires him to name drop dead movie stars and/or pine for Stewart. I can’t really blame him as he replaced Bruce Willis halfway through filming. Still, whenever you get bored, you can keep yourself amused by imagining how Bruce would’ve played things, although that provides only but so much amusement.

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