I wanted to watch this film because it stars Blake Lively. I didn’t want to watch this film because it stars Kristen Stewart. I know that’s harsh but I had very preconceived ideas about Kristen Stewart from my former ‘tweenage’ magazine years coinciding with Twilight. It’s safe to say that she got pretty bad rap, subsequently making me think that she’s a “total bitch”, to quote every trashy American teenage drama (I realise that I am a complete hypocrite as I love so-called ‘trashy’ dramas).
So, after that stream of consciousness, my conclusion was to watch Cafe Society and deal with my prior judgement of Kristen Stewart. She may well be a total bitch for cheating on Robert Pattinson in 2012 but she, as I have discovered, is an incredible actress. In fact, the acting throughout the entire film surprised me. Having seen many other Woody Allen films and knowing them to be fairly formulaic and similar in style, I thought the naturalistic and much more emotion-lead acting was very refreshing. Often Woody Allen films have left me feeling slightly indifferent, a confusing place to be when surrounded by heart-wrenching and tear-jerking (still formulaic) rom-coms. As Woody Allen himself often acted in his films, mentally I always classed him as the same character who talked a lot of bullshit and rarely conformed to the formula of other films. His films are, undoubtedly, very stylised. Things just happen, there is no build up; I guess it more accurately reflects reality, however it very rarely elicits goosebumps or a tear.
But despite not feeling emotional, I felt much more attached to the characters and, dare I say, to Kristen Stewart. Perhaps it was the omission of Woody Allen as the lead or perhaps his films are changing with our less sexist society, either way I loved the film and would definitely recommend watching it.
Despite the realism captured through the acting etcetera, other aspects reflect his unique style. The cameras and backdrop are often still with the characters moving in the centre of the frame, often really small against a large landscape behind them. This creates a very theatrical aesthetic, as if the actors are on a stage with a set. It captures the more simple essence of film when Woody Allen first started as, in most drama and film nowadays, it’s very fashionable for cameras to be handheld. Cameras that are very subtly moving offer a more naturalistic aesthetic and are possibly a backlash against the old Hollywood style.
However, Woody Allen in most ways embraces the old Hollywood style. The aesthetics are one of my favourite things to talk about and usually the first thing I notice in a film. I LOVE how vibrant the colours were in this film. To me, because of the iconic interiors and fashions of the 1930s, the bright colour enhanced the time period and created a bridge between the super-modern, high-retina display technology of our day and the classic colours of the 30s. The costume, hair and makeup again combined classic 30s shapes and styles with contemporary twists. I loved how their hair was often left a bit looser than would maybe be expected of this time. It perhaps reflects the liberation of Hollywood at that time, certainly a history lesson for me because when I think of how 1930s Britain is portrayed, it is often with sepia coloured floral patterns and updos. 1930s America feels much less conformist, but again, his film reflects modern day aspects, maybe a device used to decrease the gap between the audience and the characters.
Overall the film subverted my pessimistic expectations. Although I don’t necessarily like Woody Allen, and I’m sure this film has its faults, I would recommend it. I’m sure I could look into the characterisation deeper, there is the older man with the younger women and two glamorous younger women, but it did feel less centred around one man. At the time, I thought it was quite long (it’s actually only 96 minutes) but, perhaps because it doesn’t follow a formula, you can’t predict when it will end. I would watch it again, even just to absorb the glamour of 1930s Hollywood.