(director/writer: Woody Allen; cinematographer: Vittorio Storaro; editor: Alica Lepselter; music: Rodgers and Hart songs; cast: Jeannie Berlin (Rose Dorfman), Steve Carell (Phil Stern), Jesse Eisenberg (Bobby Dorfman), Blake Lively (Veronica), Parker Posey (Rad Taylor), Corey Stoll (Ben Dorfman), Ken Stott (Marty Dorfman), Anna Camp (Candy), Edward Hyland (Leonard’s hostile neighbor), Kristen Stewart (Vonnie), Sari Lennivk (Evelyn), Stephen Kunken (Leonard), Sheryl Lee (Karen Stern), Woody Allen (occasional voice-over narration); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Lettie Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson; Perdido Productions; 2016)
“An uninspired but satisfactory old-school nostalgia-laden Hollywood love triangle story, set during the late stages of the Great Depression.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An uninspired but satisfactory old-school nostalgia laden Hollywood love triangle story, set during the late stages of the Great Depression. It’s skillfully written and directed by Woody Allen (“Broadway Danny Rose”/”Sweet and Lowdown”) in his usual wisecracking sardonic way.
It advances nothing new from the prolific auteur, but its familiarity should please his fan base. This is the 80-year-old Allen’s first film shot digitally, and the first time since “Annie Hall” he ventures into LA. The beautifully visual film, thanks to legendary Italian photographer Vittorio Storaro, veers between LA showbiz pool parties to a Manhattan night club.
It’s a modestly diverting Allen treat, that’s about average in his large opus. It opens with a garish art deco tableau set at an elaborate cocktail party thrown by a big-time Hollywood agent, Phil Stern (Steve Carell). It’s the in- place for the folks who run the movie industry to gather and relax by the pool over cocktails. The grounds are highlighted by an Olympic-size swimming pool reflecting turquoise lights. At the party, Phil’s frumpy housewife sister Rose Dorfman (Jeannie Berlin) calls to tell him her younger son Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) is coming to Hollywood to break into showbiz and she is counting on him to help. Putting off his nerdy nice guy nephew for a few weeks after he left the Bronx, Phil reluctantly meets him and gives him a job running errands. He also palms off his young office secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), on him. The two begin a friendship that leads to a romantic relationship. When it turns out that Vonnie is also secretly having an affair with Phil, she chooses to marry him. The disillusioned Bobby treks back to NYC, and becomes a big success running the Manhattan nightclub of his gangster older brother Ben (Corey Stoll).
Things become dry in Manhattan, as the story never transfers well from the Left Coast. Bobby marries a blonde shiksa divorcee (Blake Lively) and becomes domesticated. The film’s best line has Ben converting to Christianity before going to the ‘electric chair,’ and his mother kvetching he did so only because the Jews have no afterlife–which she adds is bad for business. Ken Stott plays Bobby’s father, and his low-life portrayal of a failed Jewish patriarch and businessman jeweler was the funniest character in a film that could have used more funny characters.
REVIEWED ON 7/30/2016 GRADE: B-