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WHAT'S NEW AT THE MOVIES?
Woody Allen’s newest goes down as smooth as a somewhat watered down martini.
This wistful period romance takes us back to the swell days of Hollywood and New York in the 1930s. The movie business was grand and so, too, was the glamorous Manhattan nightlife. Young Bobby knows he’s got a better future than working in his father’s jewelry business and quits, headed to fortunes unknown in California. Thank God, he’s got an uncle in the business. Phil Stern’s the biggest agent in town. Landing (eventually) a job in his agency’s not a bad way to start. And how lucky is Bobby to also meet the girl of his dreams when Uncle Phil assigns his assistant to show the newcomer around town?
As usual, Allen fills each scene with impeccable set detail and it’s pretty scrumptious. His roster of actors is deep and divine: Anna Camp, Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin and Parker Posey standout, bringing life to what could have been shallow stereotypes. But this story and the movie relies on the triangle of Bobby, Phil and Vonnie, the young woman in the middle. And that’s where this puff of a movie gets interesting.
Steve Carell gets the tricky job of balancing Phil’s egocentric drive and irrepressible decency. He’s a sharp businessman whose heart wants what it wants. (Yeah, I know, enough with that already, Woody). Jesse Eisenberg handles the Allen standard central young dork with signature and sweet grace. But it’s Kristen Stewart who steals the whole thing. You’re not supposed to be able to take your eyes off of her and you can’t. Even in bobby socks and a hairband, Stewart is more than a knockout, she’s a lighting rod, bringing electricity to the far safer movie that surrounds her.