Monday, August 12, 2013


Woody Allen’s films of the past decade have centered around romantic comedy with a sprinkle of self-professing philosophical views on life. In his latest offering, the 77-year old filmmaker shows that he still has the knack for the serious stuff by way of his dramatic and tragic BLUE JASMINE.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is a rich socialite living a life of privilege in NYC. When her equally-rich husband (Alec Baldwin) goes to jail for tax evasion, she is forced to move to San Francisco penniless and on the verge of another nervous breakdown, and has to move in with her estranged middle-class sister (Sally Hawkins).

BLUE JASMINE starts off with a bit of a mystery, slowly and carefully setting up Jasmine’s predicament in a way that makes us eager to find out just how she got into the situation she’s in. The film then dives into a clever and well-executed non-linear narrative, using flashbacks to tell her story. The flashbacks are intercut very well; they come at just the right time and are written right into the present goings-on perfectly. It is a fascinating watch, and from minute one you are board with Jasmine as her story from the past unfolds and her present story moves in unexpected directions.
Perhaps the real magic in the film is that Woody Allen somehow makes Jasmine, who is really a spoiled and unlikeable character, very human. It’s rare that a scene takes place without her, and we can’t take our eyes off her as she tiptoes around a nervous breakdown. Allen keeps the pacing brisk and humor light, and for all its tragedy and explosive family drama, BLUE JASMINE is a very enjoyable watch. If the film has any flaw it’s when Allen veers away from his main character’s story to pay some attention to the other players. It’s an odd decision considering the weight the Jasmine character has in the film, and a little bit of trimming could have went a long way.

Cate Blanchett is nothing short of outstanding, and it just may be her best performance to date. She is asked to convey an incredible range of emotions throughout the film, and she is mesmerizing in every frame. Her character is constantly on a slow boil, and we just can’t wait to see what she will do next. Sally Hawkins and Alec Baldwin are faced with the task of keeping up with Cate, but manage not to get lost or forgotten in the film. Smaller roles held down by Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale, and a very surprisingly good Andrew Dice Clay make this one of the strongest casts Woody Allen has ever had the pleasure to direct.
The finale may frustrate few as many characters don’t quite come to a resolution to all of their problems (and they have a lot), but where we leave the story makes sense logically and thematically. Despite a few bumps, Woody Allen has crafted a fine character study and an important story, one that should be relevant for years to come.


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