A Woody Allen love story. One featuring Jesse Eisenberg at his least pretentious and Kristen Stewart in perhaps her most natural, vulnerable and dare I say, girly role yet.
Gun Shots (Nothing Graphic, But Lots Of Head Shots)
Characters Worth Noting
Phil Stern (Steve Carell) | Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg) | Vonnie (Kristen Stewart)
Main Storyline (with Commentary)
Bobby, the son of a poor, middle-class jeweler from New York, don’t ask me how that is possible, and a homemaker, decides to go see his famous uncle Phil. Someone who is a big time Hollywood agent who he hopes can set him up out west. Well, being that Phil doesn’t associate with his back east family that much, if potentially at all, it makes Bobby’s mom calling out of nowhere asking for a favor awkward. Not because he hates his family, despite possibly changing his last name to sound less Jewish, but because Bobby is pretty much on his way by the time she calls. Thus forcing Bobby to have to wait a few days before seeing his uncle.
From then on, though, his world changes. Not how you’d think, Phil doesn’t make him some sort of made-man. If anything, Bobby’s life changed because he meets Vonnie, Phil’s assistant. Now, when we meet Vonnie at times it is strange. If only because this is the girliest you probably have ever seen Stewart. Someone who basically is like the white and skinnier version of Michelle Rodriguez. So, needless to say, it is an adjustment. However, let me note it feels believable. So as the two talk and get to know each other, you root for them. But then she drops the bomb she is seeing someone. Yet, due to the advice was given, Bobby pushes on.
But, naturally, he can’t wait forever. His gangster of a brother Ben (Corey Stoll) has this nightclub which needs a manager, Bobby is growing tired of running errands for Phil, and with the help of Rad Taylor (Parker Posey), who is perhaps one of the best people Phil introduced to Bobby, he has the opportunity to meet other young ladies. Leaving the question, can two people who seem so cute, so well matched, overcome the love one man already has for Vonnie? Can they overcome being split by coasts and, lest we forget, is it love or infatuation? For she is from a small town and he from the city, so maybe in a sea full of sharks with good makeup, he saw the one human being amongst them and simply latched on? Well, to figure out what happens you gotta watch.
I have covered quite a few of Stewarts recent movies, though I’m skipping Equals since what little I have seen seems like a bore, and I think her range is increasing with time. For, maybe it is just me, but after Twilight and how awkward and horrible her romantic scenes were in that series, I honestly could not picture her in a romantic scenario and take it seriously. However, with Eisenberg, who was less pompous and condescending than I would expect him to be in a Woody Allen movie, they make a cute match. The type where, if this was old Hollywood, you’d expect them to share the screen again and again because of their chemistry (This is their 2nd film together after American Ultra), and with that came a thought.
It is hard to say sometimes whether or not the stars who hit their stride before the internet age could have survived nowadays. After all, scandals then were just whispers and rumors which may be a tabloid or two would grab hold. Now, it is accessible to anyone with an internet connection damn near for free. But, my point with bringing this up is that when it comes to Stewart, being that we see her in interviews and harassed by paparazzi, it creates this idea that she is this socially awkward mess. Similar to her character in Anesthesia. Yet then there are movies like this and the many others you can check if you click on her tag, where she shows different sides to herself. Making a film like this, in which she fits this girl next door demeanor like you are meeting this young actress for the first time.
Which isn’t me putting down her less vulnerable, romantic, and cutesy roles. It is more so that, as a fan, this isn’t the role I expect from her. One in which she is the girlfriend of a married man, which after her past scandal was awkward to think about, and she is torn between two guys. She usually plays cold characters, which due to past trauma, or current mental issues, are sort of on the edge. So between American Ultra and this, it is like a rare glimpse into what she could be capable of if she doesn’t get typecast or stays in her comfort zone.
Moving on from Stewart, though, even if she has such a small part and is but a love interest, I have to note Blake Lively’s screen presence is something else. She, to me, has this look and charm, especially due to her voice, which is almost an instant connection. It was noted slightly in The Age of Adaline, but with her in old Hollywood garb, it becomes strongly apparent. To the point, you have to wonder what is up with her movie career? Yes, she had a child recently and is probably dedicated to motherhood, but you’d think she’d get more roles like that of Veronica (her name in this movie), but as the star.
Leading to the topic of other small time roles which impressed. In general, and this is perhaps why I like Woody Allen movies, damn near every supporting character was given a life. One which they didn’t have to beg you to take an interest in. No. Between the actor and the lines they were given, you could fully go with the idea that when this person isn’t off screen, they got stuff to do. They aren’t waiting on Bobby to call or show up. Heck no. Each and everyone could have their own movie, albeit a shorter one than this, and honestly, it could be much more interesting than the main film.
I remember reading an article in The New Yorker, or something similar, about how singers Chloe and Halle were taught by Beyoncé to not necessarily throw entire bad songs away for there were gems in there. To me, some characters like Ben and maybe even Rad, they feel like characters who survived rejected or stalled scripts and were brought to this movie. Which sucks for honestly, you don’t get much in the way of butterflies, envy, or anything close to that when it comes to the relationships either Vonnie or Bobby have. There are two cute people with chemistry, but nothing so overwhelming it would make a single person hate their life or want to take notes. Making it so you look toward gangster Bobby and want to know more about a Jewish gangster. That or see more of Rad’s life with her fashion company, well to do husband, and how she lives a happy life, during those times, with no desire to have kids and pretty much going against the grain.
On the flip side, honestly all of Phil’s siblings, who mostly aren’t named since I didn’t care for them, I mostly disliked when they appeared on the screen. Granted, they were there to help bring a sense of Jewish culture, I assume. But they weren’t given interesting lives, they never said anything interesting, and sometimes I think they were put into motion so this film could attract older viewers of which who wouldn’t be interested in Allen’s name alone.
On The Fence
I want to note, while Bobby and Vonnie look cute together, the obstacle of their relationship is her being with a married man. With that, even as cute as they are, the cuteness diminishes. Which could be because I’m over thinking things, but here is how I see it. She has a man who is unavailable, who she claims she is fine with him being married and not leaving his wife, for then there is Bobby. He is available, perhaps too available, and he compensates for what she can’t get out of the other guy. With that, on the surface things are cute, especially when you look at it with rose-colored glasses, but at a certain point, especially towards the end of the movie, you realize she is playing both of them. Which brings mixed feelings. I mean, on one hand, there is this weak romance between Vonnie and both men, yet you also recognize Vonnie ultimately got what she wanted – just not from one person. Then, toward the end, she got not only love and security but the potential to still mess around with the guy she didn’t choose. So, needless to say, Vonnie is a pimp.