Follow TV Tropes


Film / Café Society

Go To

Café Society is a 2016 American romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin, and Ken Stott.

Bobby Dorfman (Eisenberg) is a young man who grew up in a Jewish family in New York. He moves to Hollywood to work for his uncle Phil (Carell), a talent agent. He falls in love with Vonnie (Stewart), his uncle's secretary, but she tells him that she already has a boyfriend. Actually, she is Phil's mistress. When Phil finally dumps her because he cannot make up his mind to leave his wife, Vonnie starts a relationship with Bobby.


Café Society provides examples of:

  • Age-Gap Romance: Phil (played by Steve Carell in his early fifties) and Vonnie (played by Kristen Stewart in her mid-twenties) love each other. Bobby, Phil's nephew who also loves Vonnie, is astounded that Vonnie is technically his aunt.
  • Artistic License – Religion: When he is sentenced to death, Ben, a Jew, is converted to Christianity because he needs to believe in the afterlife. The film claims that Jews do not believe in the afterlife, which is not true.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: Downplayed because there a many other people who spend time there, but Ben meets his fellow mobsters in the nightclub he owns.
  • Big Applesauce: The second part of the film is set in New York, the town where Bobby grew up.
  • Black Comedy:
    • A few zingers from Ben that Cross the Line Twice about killing people and burying the bodies in cement.
    • Advertisement:
    • Rose and Marty's discussion on fearing death.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: The protagonist, Bobby, meets Vonnie, he falls in love with her, and eventually wins her heart. Then Vonnie decides to break up with him to get married with Phil. Years later, Bobby meets Vonnie again, he charms her, and he even gives her a passionate kiss. Subverted because Vonnie decides to stay with her husband Phil.
  • Chekhov's Gun: For their anniversary, Vonnie gives Phil a letter written by Rudolph Valentino. This letter becomes important later, when Bobby notices the letter in Phil's office, because this makes him realize that Phil's mistress is Vonnie.
  • Coming-of-Age Story: Over the course of the film, Bobby will get his first job, his first love story, his first break-up, he will get married and obtain a stable social position as club manager.
  • Cranky Neighbor: The neighbor of Evelyn and Leonard is very disagreeable. For example he listens to loud music and refuses to decrease the volume.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Bobby falls for Vonnie as soon as he meets her. She tells him that she is not interested, because she already has a boyfriend. However, Bobby keeps on seeing her and charming her. When Phil breaks up with Vonnie, Bobby's efforts are rewarded: Vonnie starts a relaionship with him.
  • Dramatic Irony: The audience knows that Vonnie is Phil's mistress long before Bobby realizes it. Conversely, the audience knows that Bobby has fallen in love with Vonnie long before Phil realizes it. Phil and Bobby talk together about their romantic relationships without realizing that they love the same person.
  • The Great Depression: The film is set in the world of rich socialites of the 1930's, so the effects of the Great Depression are not visible.
  • Happily Married: Deconstructed.
    • Phil is happily married with Karen, but still he falls in love with Vonnie. After much hesitation, he divorces Karen to marry Vonnie.
    • Bobby is happily married with Veronica, but when he meets Vonnie again, he enjoys seeing her and he has regrets about their failed relationship.
    • Vonnie is happily married with Phil, but when she meets Bobby again, she enjoys seeing him and she confesses that she still dreams of him.
  • Homage: When Ben's history of theft is shown, it includes a subtle homage to The 400 Blows when it says that his life of crime includes stealing typewriters when he was a schoolboy. The protagonist of that film, Antoine Doinel stole a typewriter when he was at school.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Phil tells Bobby to stop calling him "uncle Phil" because nepotism should be kept quiet. Immediately thereafter, he introduces Bobby to his secretary Vonnie as "his nephew".
  • Kosher Nostra: Bobby's elder brother Ben is a Jewish mobster.
  • Love at First Sight: A Flashback shows that Phil fell in love with Vonnie as soon as she entered his office.
  • Love Dodecahedron: There are three entangled love triangles:
    • Bobby falls in love with Vonnie, then he gets married with Veronica.
    • Vonnie is Phil's mistress. After he dumps her, she starts a relationship with Bobby, then she gets married with Phil.
    • Phil is married with Karen, but Vonnie is his mistress and he finally leaves Karen to get married with Vonnie.
  • The Mistress: Phil is married, but he has been in an extramarital relationship with Vonnie for one year.
  • Old Flame: Years after leaving Hollywood, Bobby meets Vonnie again in New York. Both realize they still have feelings for each other. After a couple of meetings, they decide to stop seeing each other.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Vonnie has feelings for Phil and Bobby. Phil is a rich and powerful talent agent, while Bobby is Phil's assistant.
  • Set Behind the Scenes: The first part of the film is set in Hollywood. Phil is a talent agent and Bobby becomes a script-reader. They attend parties where they meet other people who work in the movie business.
  • Sexy Secretary: Vonnie (played by Kristen Stewart) is Phil's secretary and Phil falls in love with her immediately when he meets her. Bobby falls for her just after meeting her too.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Bobby and Vonnie go to the movies to see The Woman in Red (1935), which stars Barbara Stanwyck, Vonnie's favorite actress.
    • Near the end of the film, Leonard says: "Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living", which is a quote from the Apology of Socrates by Plato.
  • Spoof Aesop: Near the end of the film, Leonard says: "Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living but the examined one is no bargain."
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Phil cheats on his wife with Vonnie, but he is not depicted as villainous. He just fell in love with Vonnie. After much hesitation, he decides to tell his wife the truth and to get divorced.