movie film review | chris tookey

Blue Jasmine

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  Blue Jasmine Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
7.87 /10
Cate Blanchett , Sally Hawkins , Alec Baldwin
Full Cast >

Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen

Released: 2013
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 98

Woody Allen at his best.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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At a sprightly 77, Woody Allen is running into the form of his life. Two years ago, Midnight in Paris – a comedy about the folly of nostalgia - showed him at his most charmingly effervescent. Blue Jasmine – a mature drama about never learning from our mistakes - is bleak and soul-searching enough to bear comparison with the best of Tennessee Williams and John Cassavetes.

Cate Blanchett (pictured) leads an impeccable cast in Allen’s 46th film as director. Mesmerising, loathsome but full of pathos, hers is a barnstorming performance, reminiscent of her theatrical Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire, but with more than a touch of Lady Macbeth as well.

This is Allen at his least comedic, closest in tone to his great middle-period films, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Husbands and Wives. It may lack their richness and complexity, but it’s still a riveting film, a humane but brutally frank character study, perfectly achieved despite its narrow objectives.

Jasmine (Blanchett) is a spoiled New York socialite who has come unglued, financially and mentally, after the downfall of her philandering fraudster of a husband - Alec Baldwin, looking like the fat cat who has guzzled everybody’s cream and adored it.

She flies to San Francisco, irresponsibly first-class despite her debts, and moves in to the small, messy apartment occupied by her less confident, fundamentally decent, endlessly forgiving sister Ginger (British actress Sally Hawkins, a likely Oscar nominee for Best Supporting Actress) and Ginger’s two tubby sons from her previous marriage, which Jasmine and her husband helped to wreck with crooked investment advice.

Not content with having sabotaged her sister’s hopes of connubial bliss, Jasmine arrogantly sets about trying to end her engagement to an uncouth but likeable mechanic (Bobby Cannavale, in the kind of Stanley Kowalski Streetcar role that catapulted Marlon Brando to stardom).

“Your taste in men leaves a lot to be desired,” says Jasmine, the ex-wife of the convicted fraudster.

“At least he’s sexy and doesn’t steal,” murmurs her long-suffering sister.

Jasmine isn’t all bad. She tries to pay her way, first by becoming a dental receptionist (to an amorous Michael Stuhlberg, the nearest to a Woody Allen surrogate in the movie), and then by studying to become computer-literate, so that she can do an online course in interior decoration.

She even glimpses a possibility of social redemption when she meets an upwardly mobile diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard), though her addiction to vodka and prescription drugs makes us constantly aware that this liaison is unlikely to end happily.

All through the film, we’re given insights into Jasmine’s back story that help us understand where she’s coming from, and we even start to wish her well.

There’s some humour, too – and a kind of surreal genius in a scene where the thoughtlessly egotistical Jasmine takes her two, lumpish nephews to a diner and prattles on about the benefits of electric shock treatment (“Edison’s medicine”), the side effects of medication and the importance of tipping well, without the slightest notion that she’s telling them anything even slightly inappropriate.

Elsewhere, the sadness of the tale eclipses the comedy, but there are profound ironies here, and a feeling that Allen is capturing the way a whole class of fashionable women blind themselves to unacceptable truths.

This is also a film in which Allen corrects his own unattractive tendency to patronise the low-earning and less intelligent. It’s among his most generous-spirited efforts, and one of the few where he’s willing to explore not only urban neurosis but full-blown mental illness.

This is undoubtedly one of the year’s great films, and a memorable example of Woody at his best. As for Blanchett, it will need a miraculous performance to defeat her at next year’s Oscars.

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