In the future, my reviews -hopefully- will not be this long. This is mainly because how much I didn’t like the film and how much people liked the film or said the film was “okay”. In the beginning you can read my main points about why I didn’t like this movie, then I’ll explain them in more detail. In the end, I will compare this film to another film, La La Land. Actually at first I thought about giving two reviews at the same time but firstly, I didn’t want to make this 10 pages long, secondly, I have realized that there are some things I have missed about La La Land, such as colors of the scenes. So, I have to watch it one more time and the next week, I will write my review about La La Land. The comparison I will make in the end -hopefully- may serve you a teaser to watch it until the next week’s review. I hope you’ll enjoy this one.
Without further ado, let’s begin with “abstract”:
The writing was okay. Why it is not good? Because there are scenes, which are present only to make the film longer than it’s supposed to be. In the “writing” part, I will explain a little bit more and give you numbers about how long the film would have been without those scenes. Another thing is the narration. Its sole purpose is to explain what is going on, but either you have already seen what was going on or it is so obvious that you don’t need a narration. You don’t need a narration to imagine how devastated a mother is after death of her son, right? I should also mention that sub-plot has nothing to do with the plot, it is not funny or interesting and just there to make the film longer than it is supposed to be. Another thing about the length of the film is, interruption of some scenes (e.g. phone calls in Phil and Bobby’s scene) and addition of some scenes (e.g. three seconds of the black and white films Bobby and Vonnie are watching) not only there to increase the length, but also disrupt the pacing of the film. Last but not the least, the weird scenes between characters, which is there to make you laugh; but the scene is so weird, cliché or somehow the scene doesn’t work. I couldn’t laugh for 5 minutes in total for a film, which is in “comedy” genre, takes 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Editing is the worst. If I were to scale it in 10 points, I would have given 2 or 3. There are no smooth transitions between the scenes, but just an abrupt cut, which serves no purpose other than “homage”. I don’t think it is an aesthetic decision. It looks like homeworks I have been giving to the professors, when I have no time left, so I wasn’t being able to check my spellings or I had to finish a paragraph the way it shouldn’t have finished. It is awful and it doesn’t only make the film boring but actually tire you. There are also some scenes, which would have been better if the characters didn’t have to talk but just act, show how they are sad or happy or shocked instead of speaking. Furthermore, some scenes needed to be shortened but because of the script another character talks and the whole emotion goes away. I will give you an example with two videos in the “editing” part.
Lastly, the acting part. It is actually fine, probably because I wasn’t expecting more from these actors. Jesse Eisenberg’s acting is weird as always. It actually works for the beginning of the film, however later when he is supposed to be more serious, his acting becomes problematic. Not that it is bad but it doesn’t fit with your expectations. For example, it works when he is talking with his uncle, Phil, because he is just a “boy” who has gone away from home and he is supposed to be nervous. But after he was married and became a father, his “nervous” act becomes weird, because you do not expect an adult to be nervous all the time, no matter what. I wasn’t expecting anything from Kristen Stewart… Steve Carell’s acting is actually good, but you cannot get that fact because of the problems with the writing.
Let’s begin to dig deeper, shall we?
In the beginning of the film, about 9 minutes after the film begins, we encounter our first problem. The scene is about Bonnie and a hooker, who introduces herself as “Candy”. Then we begin our “comedy” part. She says it was her first time, Bonnie says it was his first time to do it with a hooker. She reveals her first name and her last name. Bonnie decides not to do it, because she has given too much information about her real self. Then she asks Bonnie if it was because she was ugly… She wants to do it; Bonnie doesn’t want to do it. She cries, Bonnie decides to do it and she reveals more information about herself, so his decision changes again. He also says things like “it’s not you, it’s me” and “I have a headache”, cliché sentences you should expect from a woman not a man so the scene is funny, right?? The scene is not funny!!! If you didn’t laugh what I have written -I certainly didn’t laugh- you wouldn’t laugh while watching the film, too. There is no character development, the situation is weird and it was probably thought that “because the situation is weird, the scene would be funny”, but that’s not the case. This is the scene in which I have decided to count the minutes for every waste-of-time scene in the movie. It takes about 3 minutes.
Later, comes another problematic scene. The scene is between Bonnie and Phil. The scene takes 1.5 minutes, because their talk is interrupted by phone calls Phil is receiving. Is there a character development? No, we do not see Bobby getting angry or reacting in another way than just sitting. Will it somehow appear later? No, if this scene were to appear later in the film, whether Bobby were to do the same thing to Phil or Bobby were to get angry because of all these phone call interruptions; the scene would be more acceptable. Is it funny? No, it annoys me as it should annoy Bobby. All in all, there is no reason to interrupt their talking with these phone calls, it serves no purpose at all.
Another unnecessary talk… It is a phone call between Bonnie and his aunt. Bonnie tells his aunt what has happened, which we have already seen. I mean, trying to change rules, not following the “show, don’t tell” rule is a thing, telling something you have already shown is another thing. There is no purpose for this scene other than wasting more time. This scene takes about 1 minute.
Much later, we see Vonnie arriving to Bonnie’s house. She is so sad and crying. Then she begins to talk about what happened… Why??!! We have just seen what happened to her. Can’t you use fade out effect and cut the scene, instead of repeating the same thing and Bonnie’s feeling about her? Because of these kind of “explainings” we cannot feel the emotions of the film. We need to see how sad Vonnie is, instead of Vonnie telling how sad she is. This scene takes about 2.5 minutes.
Now comes the second problem: The narrative. Having a narrative in the beginning is fine, having a narrative in the end is also fine. But, why do we have narrative in the middle? You can take the good things, the nostalgia of how films were made in 1930s to pay homage; not the bad things. The narrative in this film does nothing but “speaking” us the gaps between some years, months or events. Sometimes, the scene explains itself, we see what’s happening and the narration is not necessary; other times the scene is not necessary. For example, showing us what movie they have been seeing is not necessary if that scene or film will not appear later. If you make Bobby and Vonnie end up the same situation the characters in those films ended up with -even talking about how they would react and not reacting the way they say they would and ending up in the same situation would be much much better-, the scene would have a purpose and worth it. But we only see 3 seconds of a film and that’s it. It is nothing but a distraction. The narrative later talks about pregnancy of Veronica and Bobby and Veronica’s wedding. Although we have a scene, which clearly show us what’s going on. Again, why do we have narrative?
Now, there are lots of scenes and shots with no other purpose than just filling the gap. If I were to write those, it would have taken pages. That’s why I will give you the total minutes of waste-of-time moments and attach a word file here, which would sort of explain you how many minutes are wasted in which scenes. If you sum up all the waste-of-time moments, it is: 40 MINUTES!!
That’s the whole point. It has a sub-plot, which serves no purpose here for the main plot (Sub-plot scenes are not included to 40 minutes), the film is trying to make awkward moments funny and those moments just makes you uncomfortable, also the narrative is not necessary.
The editing is THE WORST!
I have counted 111 scenes in total and between those scenes there are 89 “no transitions”. I am not saying jump cut because it doesn’t happen during a scene. It is also not a smash cut, too. Because there is no “unexpected scene” happening after a scene. It is just an abrupt cut; a cut you wouldn’t even expect to see frequently in 1930s films. There are 16 dissolves. Six of them are happening in 4 minutes, not a complain but just to make you understand how those dissolves are distributed throughout the film. There are 5 wipes and honestly I was expecting larger number of wipes, since this film is kind of homage to 1930s cinema (not that much, tough…). Then, there are 2 J-cuts. I actually really liked those 2 J-cuts. I don’t know if it is because those are standing out from the others or I really liked how they were done.
My point is that there are so many scenes in this film. There is also a sub-plot, which doesn’t work and has nothing to do with the main-plot. If you edit those things, you’ll have a better structured film, but the film would take 45 minutes. That’s probably the reason why those narratives and sub-plot are introduced to the film.
Just look at the following two scenes. In these scenes, Bobby -unknowingly- tell Vonnie about his uncle’s (Phil) divorce and keep in mind Vonnie and Phil are lovers.
YouTube link – With Audio
If YouTube link doesn’t work, Vimeo link – With Audio
YouTube link – Without Audio
If YouTube link doesn’t work, Vimeo link – Without Audio
Now, this is my first edit in my life. Also, I have used a free editing program. If the editing would be smoother and if you remove that cheesy background music, the end result would be much better. But still, I think if you give silence in that scene, you actually create a “lost in thought” effect for Vonnie. Also, the last comment from Bobby is really unnecessary, abolishes the feelings you should get from the scene.
Jesse Eisenberg is an actor with that weird acting. His acting is like a nervous boy, which works for the first half of the movie. He is a “boy” who was away from home for the first time. He is in a new place, in a new society (pun is not intended), and he is surrounded by people who are really important for the film industry. But on the second half, after he became owner of the club -together with his brother Ben-, he has married and became a father; that “nervous boy” acting doesn’t work.
Kristen Stewart is…. Kristen Stewart. She tries to look sad, she tries to look like she is in love, she tries to look like she is having fun; but you can’t feel those feelings from her. I think hers was the worst performance.
Steve Carell tries to save the film, but even he can’t. He is weird in the places he is supposed to be weird, funny in the places he is supposed to be funny, and serious in the places he is supposed to be serious. I think his acting was the best.
Now, let’s compare Café Society to La La Land
La La Land doesn’t have narration and it doesn’t need to have a narration. As I said before, a narration in the first or the last scenes of a film is okay, not good, but okay. There is no sub-plot, which occupies about the half of the movie. The main plot is interesting, unlike Café Society’s main plot and sub-plot. There are no unnecessary scenes or the scenes are not disrupted. Additionally, La La Land is not trying to be funny, it IS funny.
Editing is done wonderfully, I will talk about those more in the actual review, but the transitions and cuts are top-notch. I wasn’t surprised when I learned the director and the writer is Damien Chazelle. He was also the director and the writer of Whiplash, another wonderfully written and edited film. He won Golden Globe in Best Director in Motion Picture and Best Screenplay in Motion Picture categories.
The acting part was also wonderful. Emma Stone shone in her role and she is a great actress. She won Golden Globe in Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture and BAFTA in Best Leading Actress categories. She is also nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress category.
La La Land doesn’t make the amateurish mistakes Café Society does. That is why I highly recommend La La Land and do not recommend you to watch Café Society, unless you are a fanboy or fangirl of Woody Allen or you have to watch every movie that is in Romance genre.