Review Headlines


-'Cafe Society' review: Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg enliven otherwise dull nostalgia - Chicago Tribune


-Woody Allen's amiable, if insubstantial, tribute to golden-age Hollywood - The Guardian


-Woody Allen Conjures a Familiar Yet Satisfying Brew - Collider


-Woody Allen’s ‘Cafe Society’ feels very familiar - Seattle Times


-Café Society and the Twilight of Woody Allen - The Atlantic


-Great to look at, Woody Allen’s latest, “Cafe Society,” isn’t much to watch - Boston Globe


-Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart shine in Woody Allen’s homage to Hollywood and lost love - Boston Herald




-‘Café Society’ is a pleasant and entertaining trip to nowhere - San Francisco Chronicle


-Released on July 15, 2016 (limited), July 29, 2016 (wide)

-Runtime 96 minutes

-Budget: $30 Million (estimated), Gross: 1.4 Million (as of 7/25/16)

-Production Studio: Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions

-Distributor: Lionsgate, Amazon Studios

-Rated: PG-13

-Aspect Ratio: 2.00 : 1

-Café society was the description of the "Beautiful People" and "Bright Young Things" who gathered in fashionable cafes and restaurants in New York, Paris, and London beginning in the late 19th century. The Cafe Society attended each other's private dinners and balls, and took holidays in exotic locations or at elegant resorts. [2]


-Maury Henry Biddle Paul is credited with coining the phrase "cafe society" in 1915. Lucius Beebe created the term "chromium mist" for the cafe society lifestyle he chronicled in his weekly column, "This New York", for the New York Herald Tribune during the 1920s and 1930s. [2]


-In the United States, café society came to the fore with the end of Prohibition in December 1933 and the rise of photojournalism, to describe the set of people who tended to do their entertaining semi-publicly, in restaurants and nightclubs and who would include among them movie stars and sports celebrities. Some of the American night clubs and New York City restaurants frequented by the denizens of café society included El Morocco, the Stork Club, and the 21 Club. A complete history of New York café society was published by McFarland Publishing in 2015. The book is illustrated with photographs by Jerome Zerbe. [2]


-In the late 1950s the term "Jet Set" began to take the place of "café society", but "café society" may still be used informally in some countries to describe people who habitually visit coffeehouses and give their parties in restaurants rather than at home.[2]


-Café Society was also a New York City nightclub opened by Barney Josephson in 1938, at Sheridan Square in Greenwich Village. Josephson created the club to showcase African American talent and to be an American version of the political cabarets he had seen in Europe earlier. As well as running the first racially integrated nightclub in the United States, Josephson also intended the club to defy the pretensions of the rich; he chose the name to mock Clare Boothe Luce and what she referred to as "cafciety", the habitués of more upscale nightclubs…” [6]


-Woody Allen’s Cafe Society is based on a remake of Cafe Society a screwball comedy from 1939 which starred Fred MacMurray and Madeleine Carroll. [1]

"Cafe Society" Screening Companion

Recreating the 1930s


-With 29 Allen films in his portfolio, the 71-year-old Santo Loquasto started out doing costumes; he began to act as production designer in the late 1980s for such voyages to yesteryear as “Radio Days” and “Bullets Over Broadway,” which earned Mr. Loquasto Oscar nominations. [3]


-“We really shot less than a week in Los Angeles—over a weekend,” Mr. Loquasto says. That was largely a budget issue. “Comparable to period movies other people make, there’s no budget.” [3]


-There are dozens of showy shots of sunbathed L.A. exteriors and art-deco interiors—mansions, nightclubs, other hangouts. Mr. Allen doesn’t include a lot of scenery description in his screenplays, Mr. Loquasto says. “You have to draw out the information often. It’s far more conversational than you’d ever imagine. I’ll show him photos. We’ve built models. But he doesn’t really trust drawings so much.” [3]


-The opening scene originally was going to take place inside a re-creation of the extinct Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles, to be rebuilt in a dilapidated 1930s dance hall in the Bronx. “Really in a horrible place, but quite marvelous,” Mr. Loquasto says. It would have cost too much to restore the hall, so they switched to shoot it as a poolside party at a modernist white mansion in Santa Monica once owned by Dolores Del Rio. [3]


-For the agent-uncle’s extravagant home, they shot inside a 1928 Spanish Colonial Revival-style villa in Los Feliz. Its owners already had restored it impeccably. “Even the light switches were 1920s buttons,” Mr. Loquasto recalls. [3]


-The agent’s Hollywood office actually is the ornate office of the president of the Brooklyn Library. The exterior of the hotel where Bobby stays in California was in Los Feliz, but the inside was in Forest Hills, Queens, where Mr. Loquasto correctly surmised he would find homes in a style he calls “hacienda deco—plastered walls with arches and tile floors.” [3]


-In New York, they shot in a rundown apartment on Riverside Drive and built a small jazz club inside Reverend Ike’s United Palace theater in Harlem. The ritzy “Les Tropiques” nightclub that Bobby and his brother run was built from scratch on a Brooklyn soundstage. [3]


-Woody Allen: “A problem here was no hangout nightclubs to use. Riviera, Toots Shor’s, all gone. I investigated every spot possible. We had to build an upstairs-downstairs classic Manhattan saloon, with a striped background like the old El Morocco, in a Bronx garage. You’ll be amazed. We built a glamorous, big-time club from empty space. Not one inch of it is real.

“That world’s all finished. Who stays out late anymore? Now people are home streaming. Working computers, phones. No nightlife. It’s all gone.” [7]


Vittorio Storaro A.S.C., A.I.C.


-This is Woody Allen's first time working with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now, Reds, The Last Emperor, Last Tango in Paris, Dick Tracy). [1]


-After working with Gordon Willis, Carlo de Palma, Sven Nykvist and Darius Khondji, Allen ran into [Vittorio] Storaro at a restaurant, he said. “We were never on the same schedule. This time we were both at liberty. I called him. And I had the honor of working with this great cinematographer.” [5]


-Vittorio Storaro was also Francis Ford Coppola's cinematographer in his segment of New York Stories. Woody Allen also had a segment in the film called “Oedipus Wrecks.” [1]


-This is Woody Allen's first film shot in 2:00:1 aspect ratio, this aspect ratio is commonly used by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. [1]


-Mr. Allen and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro wanted to contrast the L.A. scenes visually with those set back in Depression-era New York. Much is achieved with color. Some L.A. scenes are drenched in amber light.“Well, there’s always that with Woody,” Mr. Loquasto says. “Honey-dipped is what I call it.” [3]


-Vittorio Storaro’s scrumptious, dark-toned cinematography is so breathtaking that it almost seems to be telling a story of its own. Storaro, that maestro of color and shadow, turns the wood-paneled offices and restaurants into an Art Deco daydream, and when Bobby and Vonnie are seated in Bobby’s motel room and the electricity goes out, the sudden illumination-by-candlelight looks like something out of “Barry Lyndon.” Every shot in “Café Society” glows with lustrous classicism. Yet all of this just makes you wish that Allen had brought the Old Hollywood setting to life with a richer sense of drama and play, the way that the Coen brothers did recently in “Hail, Caesar!” [4]


- ...the result is ravishing to behold—more so, I think, than any Allen picture since Gordon Willis filmed “Manhattan” in black-and-white. No one has delved more fruitfully than Storaro into the depths of color, exploring its contribution to political and physical extremes, and you could argue that Allen should have summoned him sooner, to chart Cate Blanchett’s prostration in “Blue Jasmine” (2013). [8]




-This is the first film that Woody Allen has narrated a film without appearing on screen since Radio Days (1987) 29 years earlier. [1]


-Steve Carell replaced Bruce Willis after filming had already begun. The reason for Willis' departure was unclear at first, with many reporting it to be a scheduling conflict, but it was later revealed that he was fired after Woody Allen and the cast became fed up with his behavior and inability to remember his lines. This is Carell's second collaboration with Allen, as he had previously co-starred in Allen's film Melinda and Melinda (2004). [1]


-The first film since the original Twilight (2008) for which Kristen Stewart had to audition for to win the role. [1]


-This will be Woody Allen's first digitally-shot film, using a Sony Cinealta F65. [1]



-This will be the third time Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg are in a film together. They previously co-starred in Adventureland (2009) and American Ultra (2015). [1]

-Corey Stoll previously co-starred in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris (2011). [1]


-This is Woody Allen's first film since Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), eight years earlier, not to be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. [1]


-Opening film at the 69th Cannes Film Festival, the third of Allen's films to open Cannes, following Hollywood Ending (2002) and Midnight in Paris (2011). [1]


-Kristen Stewart and Blake Lively's first Woody Allen feature. Parker Posey previously co-starred in Woody Allen's Irrational Man (2015). [1]


Recreating the 1930s Doesn’t Come Cheap


-“This is the most expensive film he’s ever made, more than Sean Penn-starrer “Sweet and Lowdown,” admitted Allen. “I start with an $18 million budget,” he said. “This went over a little bit, and more and more, I guess into the mid 20s. It cost me money. I never made a movie for $30 million in my life. I couldn’t raise $30 million if I sold my wife on the open market.” [5]


-Budget concerns meant that when Amazon came to his producers, he had to say yes to their $20-million offer. “I was doing a TV series for them,” he said. “‘We would like to distribute your movie.’ ‘Well, we usually work with Sony Classics, I’m very happy with them. ‘We’ll give you this much’ ‘How do you say no to this?’ ‘OK, provided it was distributed the normal way, theatrically, otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. The money was so not just tempting, it was irresistible.” [5]




Jeannie Berlin as Rose

Steve Carell as Phill

Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby Dorfman

Kristen Stewart as Vonnie

Blake Lively as Veronica

Parker Posey as Rad

Corey Stoll as Ben

Ken Stott as Marty

Anna Camp as Candy

Paul Schneider as Steve

Sheryl Lee as Karen Stern

Tony Sirico as Vito

Stephen Kunken as Leonard

Sari Lennick as Evelyn Dorfman

Max Adler as Walt

Don Stark as Sol

Gregg Binkley as Mike

Woody Allen as Narrator (voice)


Critical Reception


-Owen Gleiberman for Variety wrote: “Yet the film, watchable as it is, never quite overcomes the sense that it’s a lavish diagram working hard to come off as a real movie. With intermittent romantic sparks struck between Eisenberg and his co-star, a poised and glowing Kristen Stewart, “Café Society” is likely to draw a larger swath of the Allen audience than his last two, “Magic in the Moonlight” and “Irrational Man.” But there may be a limit to its success, since it’s one of those Allen films that keeps talking about passion instead of actually making the audience feel it...a great many people walk around carrying the ghosts of love – a dream of what might have been. But that’s a message we need to feel in our hearts, rather than our heads, if it’s going to haunt us. Mostly, “Café Society” leaves you dreaming of the movie it might have been had Woody Allen made it by doing what he’s done in his best work: nudging himself out of his comfort zone. [10]


-Michael Phillips for the Chicago Tribune wrote: “"Cafe Society" is a good-looking nothing, but there are times - thanks more to Allen's direction than his writing, and thanks mostly to the people acting out the masquerade - when "nothing" is sufficient... Thanks to the warm, glowing light lavished on the film by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, shooting digitally, the writer-director's 47th feature looks like a million bucks in that drippingly nostalgic late-period Allen way. The dialogue? The dialogue ranges in value from a quarter-million to a buck eighty-three. Then again, the cast is pretty wonderful, particularly Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, who conduct a stealthy acting class throughout "Cafe Society." [11]


-Peter Bradshaw for The Guardian wrote: Café Society could be said to restate almost all of the key ideas and themes of Woody Allen’s films in one way or another: life, chance, fate, love, guilt. Bobby’s mother says that you should live each day like it’s your last, and one day you will be right. Allen isn’t quite making each film as if it is his last – rather, it is almost as if nowadays each one is his first: smart, brisk, amiable, a little unfocused and without the ambition and joke-rapidity which is the mark of the mature genius yet to come. [12]


-Mike D'Angelo for AV Club wrote: Watching this film feels like listening to a formerly great pianist whose fingers are now gnarled with arthritis. The notes are right, and played in the correct order, but the tempo is way, way off. [13]


-Dave Calhoun For Time Out wrote: The film is built on twin nostalgias: a nostalgia for 1930s Hollywood and a nostalgia for the comforts and foundations of home. It's a languid and clumsy film, not very romantic (the scenes between Eisenberg and Stewart are desperately flat) and even less funny, although it manages a wistful thoughtfulness in some of its later scenes. [14]


- “[The] film is so gay and charming, so beautifully set and costumed, that the net result is to make cafe society really seductive.” Written by LIFE magazine about the original “Cafe Society” March 6, 1939. [15]


-Mick LaSalle for The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: ““Café Society,” the latest from Woody Allen, is little more than a complicated anecdote, without much in the way of suspense or significance. But it’s amusing, pleasing to the eye and has exceptional performances from Kristen Stewart and Steve Carell.” [16]


-Peter Travers for Rolling Stone wrote: “In a summer of VFX crowdpleasers, it's a kick to find Woody Allen out there working with flesh-and-blood actors who deal with emotions that aren't computer generated. Café Society isn't peak Allen, in the manner of such recent high points as Midnight in Paris (2011) and Blue Jasmine (2013), but the film — which could be helpfully subtitled Manhattan v Hollywood — feels lively, lived-in and fallibly human.” [17]


-75% Rotten Tomatoes rating (7/27/2016) [9]