Review: Blue Jasmine [2013]

Blue JasmineOver the past year and a half or so I’ve become a big Woody Allen fan. He’s directed over 40 films in the past 40 years (averaging almost a movie per year) and I don’t think I’ve seen even half of them. But I’m working on it. I thoroughly enjoyed Midnight in Paris and while To Rome, With Love wasn’t a home run, I enjoyed it as well. So when I heard Blue Jasmine was getting excellent reviews, I couldn’t wait to go see it for myself.

I left the theater a little let down. I often wonder if I’m at fault for not understanding a movie, not the filmmaker. With a 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, I couldn’t help but think I must have missed something. (The rating seems to have dropped to an 89% since I saw it.)

This is an average Woody Allen film with an incredible performance.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, a New York socialite whose world has been turned upside down and has a mental breakdown after her husband, played in flashback by Alec Baldwin, is arrested and their assets are liquidated. She’s forced to move to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, and her two sons. The two sisters couldn’t be different. Ginger works at a grocery store and Jasmine probably hasn’t worked a day in her life. She’s constantly talking about going back to school and when jobs are offered to her she waves them away and says they’re beneath her. Ginger is Jasmine’s only true supporter throughout the film and since Jasmine only cares about herself, you sometimes have to wonder why Ginger even bothers.

The movie has some great Woody Allen moments but it mostly drags. Even at a 98 minutes the film feels long. It features a great cast of characters including Bobby Cannavale as Chili, Ginger’s boyfriend, whom Jasmine constantly refers to as a loser, Andrew Dice Clay as Augie, Ginger’s ex-husband who got screwed over by investing with Jasmine’s husband and is still bitter about it, and Peter Sarsgaard as the man who could turn things around for Jasmine.

Cate Blanchett possibly gives the best performance of the year as the strung out, always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, lead. She pushes herself physically and emotionally and she’s breathtaking to watch. Especially in contrast to the happy-go-lucky housewife she seems to be in the flashbacks.

Allen uses his simple cinematography, like he always doe, mostly letting action play out over a series of wide shots. It’s his signature style and I’ve come to expect nothing less. Sometimes I wonder if holding on a wide shot for as long as he does, is the reason this movie seemed to move at a slower pace or if the scenes are just written too long.

The movie is being described as Woody Allen’s reimagining of A Streetcar Named Desire and maybe that’s why I don’t totally get the film. I haven’t seen Streetcar (I know, I know…). Or perhaps this just isn’t one of Allen’s best.

I give it a C+.

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