Nostalgia and Laughter from Coast to Coast
Open letter and film review by Susan Kandell Wilkofsky
Welcome home Woody! We can’t exactly celebrate with a feast as if you were the prodigal son (even you would see the irony and humor of that suggestion), but we can acknowledge your return to our shores with a little champagne, just like in your movie, Café Society!
We understood your previous wanderlust, with little excursions to Europe – Barcelona, Paris, London. But now you have returned to the good old USA. Instead of Brooklyn, you’ve substituted the Bronx – but as a gal from West 174th Street, you won’t hear me complaining! And very clever how you throw in a little Hollywood for glamour. Hey, we’re fine with that! Who couldn’t use a little fancy-schmancy allure?
And how proud we are! Shepping nachas! Café Society was the opening day film at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Sorry, you didn’t win any prizes there – but we’re still kvelling over that achievement. Next time, however, don’t be a putz. Spend a little more gelt and get a real narrator. Or invest in some lozenges.
Again, nice to see you old friend. With all that’s going on in the world, maybe you’ll stick a little closer to home from now on.
Susan from the Bronx
Yes, Woody is back and while Café Society is not exactly Annie Hall, it is a lovely film; bathed in a beautiful nostalgic light and generously sprinkled with plenty of humor. You have all the usual Woody elements; a lively jazz score, pretty women wearing equally elegant costumes of the ’30’s and the obligatory Woody stand-in. In Café Society, that role went to Jesse Eisenberg (Bobby Dorfman), perfectly cast as Allen’s alter-ego – certainly the part he would have written for himself 50 years ago. The Diane Keaton role is played by Kristen Stewart (Vonnie) – but with a little less fluster. And New York stars as itself, in all its grandness of another era.
Instead of comparing the “new” Woody Allen to the “old” Woody Allen, I think Café Society has more in common with a good Moliére dramedy – boy meets girl, boy loses girl, etc. But in- between the bittersweet tale of love and heartbreak, he weaves a story of family – albeit a dysfunctional Jewish family, where most of the humorous schtick resides. Just to see Jeannie Berlin – or rather “hear” Jeannie Berlin and see Parker Posey as a blonde, is worth the price of admission. Corey Stoll rounds out the cast as a Jewish gangster and Blake Lively is alluring as the other Veronica.
Café Society is reminiscent of the old Stones tune; You Can’t Always Get What You Want. At 80 years of age, Woody Allen is all grown up and recognizes that he doesn’t have to pursue pat formulas or be concerned that his characters get what they need. He deftly captures the nature of desire and inevitable disappointments and then ditches the saccharin Hollywood ending.
This article was reprinted with permission of the Texas Jewish Post