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Woody and Cate Make a Fine DuetWoody Allen's finely tuned screen-writing skills and his talent for eliciting standout and often award-winning performances from his leading ladies are on full display in "Blue Jasmine." Alec Baldwin, the slick husband of a middle-aged socialite, Cate Blanchett, pulls a Bernie-Madoff swindle and ends up in jail. The homes, the cars, the furs, the jewels, the furniture all go to the Feds, and the penniless Cate flies first class to San Francisco with her Louis Vuitton luggage to stay with her non-biological sister, Sally Hawkins, until she gets back on her feet. Blanchett, the Jasmine of the title, is totally unprepared for her economic fall. She decides to become an interior designer, but wants to study on-line; however, she is computer illiterate and must take a course, before she can begin to study decorating; but, she needs money for the courses and takes a receptionist job with a lecherous dentist. Although the film addresses serious issues, the Allen humor will provoke smiles and an occasional chuckle, from small well-observed moments such as the attempts of indecisive patients to make dental appointments.Understandably, Cate Blanchett's Jasmine teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown; she lies instinctively, even to herself; and she cannot or will not face the reality of her downward mobility. The role is an actress's showcase, and Blanchett is in top form; her nervous rambling monologues, either to herself or to unwilling strangers, provide a study guide for aspiring actors. Jasmine brays at her "sister," Ginger, effortlessly and engagingly played by Hawkins; she nags about Ginger's job, lover, and living quarters, until Ginger points out Jasmine's own diminished situation. Jasmine bellows that Ginger can do better than her amorous boyfriend, Chili, a charismatic Bobby Cannavale with a bad haircut and faded tattoo; eventually, Ginger reminds her that her own choice of husband was less than stellar. Jasmine, Ginger, and Chili make an aromatic trio, whose names perhaps allude to their personalities, and they are ably supported by Louis C.K., a horny guy with the hots for Ginger, and Peter Sarsgaard, a respectable diplomat seeking a suitable wife for his political career.In keeping with the film's title, Woody uses blues on the soundtrack, and his cinematographer, Javier Aguirresrobe, lenses the dual New York and San Francisco locales effectively. Although the jump cuts in time are jarring initially, viewers will quickly accommodate to New York being the past and San Francisco the present. Woody at age 78 is a master writer, especially of women's characters, and "Blue Jasmine" finds him at his best. Although Woody's trademark humor flickers throughout, the film is essentially about a vulnerable woman standing amidst the ruins of her former life and facing a precariously uncertain future. Audiences may come out praising the performers, but humming the blues.
One of Woody Allen's most unsuspecting heavyweight films in a long time.Sometimes it feels like Woody Allen is deliberately hit and miss. Every other film appears to be a winner so it's become easy to just skip the mediocre ones. I thought Midnight In Paris was pretty good but I felt like its idea wasn't explored well enough and it became too repetitive. Blue Jasmine is a film that feels like it'll be another basic story at first then as the tragedy slowly unravels, it becomes all the more fascinating. At first the film's structure of flashbacking without transition is a little frustrating as the present time doesn't give you much to chew on in the first place, but it soon becomes clear that this was the only way to tell this brilliant and complex story of a woman's place in the world. Cate Blanchett is setting the reviews on fire and she certainly deserves it. I've always loved her engrossing theatrical style in films like The Aviator and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and I've missed her since.Here she is in full force as she switches from glamour to glare seamlessly and effortlessly. Blanchett has often played strong women and she tiptoes the line of Jasmine's strength and vulnerability both with and without sympathy. It's incredible to watch. Although I was concerned I was going to only appreciate the performance and not connect with the character, I ended up finding her struggle to feel useful in the working world and not knowing how to achieve her ambitions to cut deep into the first world human anxieties about identity and self- worth. It's great to have a film that addresses those issues so earnestly, without feeling self- pitying. Although the spotlight is on her, there's plenty of room for the supporting players to shine with the delightful comic relief performances from Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlberg and Max Casella and deceptively charming performances from Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay and Peter Sarsgaard. The real talent on the side belongs to Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale who give compelling and heartbreaking performances.I like how Allen has such confidence in his shooting style of simple wides and closeups that he doesn't let it get in the way of the story but sometimes it does feel bland rather than just Woody's brand. It sometimes feels like the story is taking uninteresting broad strokes with its archetypes but when the details come in like a mystery novel, they enrichen the story and leave just before they drown you making you want more. Perhaps Allen could've made a better job of making me intrigued in the details but that makes the pay-offs all the more sweeter. However, I'm not quite sure what to make of the ending, perhaps Allen is trying to say there's some people who can and can't be fixed, I'm not sure, but it's a fascinating tragic comic tale nonetheless. Maybe it's intended as a punishment film regarding the sin of greed. That would make sense though it wouldn't be as satisfying. It's been compared to A Streetcar Named Desire a lot but I don't remember much of that story despite having seen it twice. I think I prefer Blue Jasmine. One of Allen's most unsuspecting heavyweight films in a long time.
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