Woody Allen’s latest feels very familiar and not terribly original. It’s like he has a drawer full of ideas for film scenes and he just grabbed a hand full and shot. It has a bittersweet love story at the center, set in Golden Age Hollywood and New York, and the usual Woody stand-in character. This time it’s Jesse Eisenberg playing Bobby Dorfman, a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx who comes to LA to work for his “Agent to the Stars” Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) and falls for his beautiful secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), but eventually returns heart-broken to New York, takes a job with his mobster brother, and marries shiksa goddess Veronica (Blake Lively). The first part in Hollywood is kind of fun, but sadly it runs out of steam when it gets back to New York, almost like it’s two different movies.
As usual in Allen period flicks, we meet the whole Dorfman/Stern clan, from Bobby’s neurotic Mom and ineffectual Dad, to the philosopher married to his bookish Aunt Evelyn, and of course his less than upstanding brother Ben who gets rid of business hurdles with the help of a cement mixer, but also helps out the whole family who like to look the other way. And the biggest personality in the family is Uncle Phil who is there for Bobby until his big secret is revealed. But the other big character in the story really is Vonnie, Bobby’s friend and the object of his desire, who shows him around town when he arrives in LA, shares her favorite dives with him, and runs to him when she breaks up with her boyfriend. But then things get messy.
This is not going to be one of Allen’s lasting movies, but it is still mostly entertaining, having a top notch cast (I still don’t get all the hoop-la about Kristen Stewart) and it’s beautifully shot with a great jazz soundtrack. I’d say if you’re a Woody Allen fan, you won’t be sorry you saw it, but if you’re on the fence about him, wait for it on a plane somewhere.