I'll start by stating the obvious. Woody Allen's movies are really just ways for him to reaffirm either what he thinks about the world or what he wishes were true. By which I mean, he likes to believe women make bad choices and then pine for what they could have had while men leave their wives and get the young girl and live happily ever after. (Or some variation on this, but it generally boils down to the same.)
In this particular version of the story, we have young Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg doing his best imitation of Allen) leaving New York to go try and make a life in L.A. with the help of his uncle Phil (Steve Carell). Phil is a powerful Hollywood agent, and in no time Bobby is rubbing shoulders with the stars. But he's more interested in young Vonnie (Kristen Stewart, who always seems not to know what to do with her mouth), who also works for his uncle. Unfortunately for Bobby, Vonnie has a boyfriend—namely, Phil. He's married and much older but they're having an affair.
When Phil breaks things off, Bobby moves quickly to take up room in Vonnie's heart. (He has no idea her boyfriend was Phil, btw.) But when Phil finally leaves his wife, Vonnie chooses him over Bobby, and Bobby returns to New York. He ends up quite successful in running a nightclub, marries a model-worthy woman, has a baby, and is largely none the worse for wear. Even when Phil and Vonnie come for a visit, Bobby gets to have his cake and eat it too, so to speak. He sees that Vonnie is a little miserable, he gets to spend time with her, even kiss her, but also hold on to his perfect little life. Meanwhile, the women get the short end of everything. Phil's wife gets tossed aside, Vonnie gets the sadness of longing for someone else, and Bobby's wife gets cheated on. Men are assholes in Woody Allen movies, but somehow it's all excused while women are left to pick up the pieces.
This is nothing new, but Café Society was very obvious about it. It also made plain the ideal that New York is better than L.A. In this movie the L.A. people are loud and superficial. They name drop, and every interaction with them is like oil on water. Nothing feels real or true. New York is grittier but also seen to be more satisfying. Bobby glides through his nightclub, true, but his interactions with the patrons feel more rooted than those in L.A.
It's an okay movie. Somewhat Gatsby-esque in themes. But I found myself distracted by all these glaring aspects; it was as if I had to squint to see past them and watch the movie. I realize these things have been present in Woody Allen movies for forever, so maybe it's just that my tolerance for them is depleted. Either way, Café Society left me grimacing.