After nearly 50 years of making movies—and around half that long with a spotlight on unsavory aspects of his personal life—Woody Allen has become a filmmaker whose movies are psycho-analyzed for autobiographical subtext as much as they’re actually watched. His latest is another period piece, opening in 1930s Hollywood where recently-arrived Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) finds work with his high-powered agent uncle (Steve Carell) and falls for his uncle’s secretary, Vonnie (Kristen Stewart). Romantic roundelays of the “heart wants what it wants variety” ensue—with strong performances by Stewart and Eisenberg, the latter of whom avoids obvious Woody-surrogate tics—alternating with life among the members of Bobby’s New York-based Jewish family, including his gangster brother (Corey Stoll). But while Allen’s own voice as narrator evokes the nostalgia of Radio Days, there’s a more acidic bite here in the story’s look at what people lose of their souls while pursuing what appears on the surface to be a successful life. It’s too uneven to be fully satisfying, but you don’t have to call it a mea culpa to find at least a little wisdom.
Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson, Ron Chez, Adam Stern and Allan Teh
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Parker Posey, Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott, Paul Schneider, Anna Camp, Judy Davis, Sari Lennick and Stephen Kunken