February 3, 2017 -- Woody Allen just keeps cranking out these light romantic comedies year after year. By my count, this is the 47th film he has directed. The only thing different about this one is it isn't entirely set in New York City and it is an Amazon Studios release, rather than the usual MGM-affiliated release.
Set in 1930s Hollywood, this is the story of a naive young Jewish man, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg of “Now You See Me”) who gets a job with his uncle, Phil Stern (Steve Carell of “The Big Short”) at a talent agency and falls in love with the secretary, Veronica “Vonnie” Sybil (Kristen Stewart of “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Vonnie, it turns out, has on-again, off-again affairs with both Bobby and her married boss, Phil Stern, forming a romantic triangle. The film is narrated by Woody Allen, who also wrote the screen play and directs the film.
The story begins in Hollywood, then moves back to Woody's favorite place, New York City, where Bobby's hoodlum brother Ben (Corey Stoll of “Ant-Man”) is running a popular nightclub, after murdering the previous owner, who did not want to sell the property. Bobby goes to work for Ben and proves to be adept at hosting, mingling and glad-handing guests at the nightclub. However, Ben's criminal past is about to catch up with him.
Bobby moves to New York City and Vonnie stays in Los Angeles, but their paths cross again. Each of them finally admits that they haven't fully moved on and they still have feelings for each other. Will this rekindled romance lead to anything? Will there be any consequences from this forbidden romance? Will Bobby be caught up in his brother's criminal activities?
This has the makings of a heavy, maybe even tragic story, but it turns out to be as light a a Twinkie. It is not like everybody lives happily ever after, but it isn't tragic, either. It is just a light romance, sprinkled with a few great Woody Allen one-liners, like these, “Socrates said, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ But the examined one is no bargain,” and “Life is a comedy, but it’s one written by a sadistic comedy writer.”
To paraphrase Woody Allen, this is a story about what the heart wants when the heart wants it. This romantic triangle is full of missed opportunities and wistful regrets. The effects of the romantic secrets and cheating on the spouses is ignored. This is a game only for the cheaters, as they skate back and forth between spouses and lovers. They are largely spared the consequences of their choices. This is a story in which all's well enough that ends sort of O.K. This film rates a C+.
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