Cafe Society: The Allen Brand


Cafe soc 2016
The Allen Brand

This film features the typical Allen “brand”. There’s the same logo, the same type of music, and the same headings. The plot features the same type of schleppy Jewish male prototype (Jesse Eisenberg). There are the standard knock-off Allen jokes. In this one, they are delivered by an intellectual type and a Jewish mother. Allen narrates the movie but there’s a problem. The Plot is extremely thin. There’s a three-way romance going on with Kristen Stewart/Eisenberg/and a much older man played by Steve Carell. That’s it.

The questions about Allen still exist. I’ve written about the allegations before. But Woody Allen has been a creative force in Hollywood for decades and as I’ve stated, his work should stand alone and be judged as such.And if you look at this part of his body of work, as an artist, all you find is thin, weak gruel disguised as a movie. How he gets the green light for his projects and still has the ability to make this pabulum for his followers is a mystery. This is just not good enough. Had there been a wrinkle in the formula, a funny sidekick, or a side story that was interwoven into the main action, or a twist or variation in the ending, then this might pass as an interesting light comedy.

But none of those things happened in this film. You must take Allen’s work at face value. He plays it for what it is-a homage to New York, a dying way of life, an ode to the young Jewish comic persona he created, and a rather stereotyped and jaded look at Hollywood and the movie industry. That also applies to his view of women, (stereotyped and jaded). In the end, the body of work which includes not just classics like Annie Hall, but also Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Manhattan, Radio Days and Hannah and her Sisters means that Woody Allen is a creative genius with a spot in the panoply of Cinema Greats.

These vintage, Allen-esque portraits, frozen in time, depict New York and Allen’s view of it as the highly encapsulated world that he intends it to be. It’s all part of the creative process we’ve had the privilege to view as he displayed his foibles and bared his soul in the process. Sadly, we see the waning days of a genius who has given us so much and has seen better days. Allen should retire gracefully, and those who are in his position seldom do the right thing. This film should have been sketched on a storyboard and stored in the drawer. Unfortunately for the Allen loyalists, he may have a few more duds like this in his head, and like this one, they should never see the light of day.

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Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at

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