Blue Jasmine - Movie Review

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By Craig Thornton

Sometimes before award season begins there is a lot of Oscar buzz about a performance; this is the case for Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.  Cate Blanchett is simply wonderful in the lead here. As a haughty New York socialite whose life of leisure and privilege comes to an abrupt end, she is funny, exasperating, defeated, clueless, desperate, condescending and dignified-but always believable.   Faced with a precarious future, Jasmine must move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in a modest apartment in San Francisco’s mission district.  The tale of Jasmine’s societal descent is mainly told in flashback as she discovers that her perfect husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is as about as far from perfect as you can get.  Baldwin plays it flawlessly as a charming, soulless businessman who uses less than legal ways to gain his fortune.  The pedestal Jasmine has put him on completely crumbles when she learns even more about his duplicity.

 Like most Woody Allen films, there is a plethora of characters, but unlike many of his other films, Blue Jasmine doesn’t feel like an ensemble piece; although there is a lot of time spent with Ginger’s story and her love life; it’s Jasmine’s struggle at keeping her life and sanity afloat that compels the viewer.  The parallels and similarities to Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire are obvious and effective. I think I may even have heard a line from Streetcar in Blue Jasmine-when Jasmine says “I wasn’t lying when I said I loved you” or something like that.

 The screenplay isn’t perfect, there seems to be too many coincidental scenes where people see each other or run into each in huge cities like New York and San Francisco and important plot information is given.  This might be more believable if it were a small town and everyone eventually went to the same grocery store.  Plotting and subtext have never been Allen’s forte and these things are forgivable because you are so caught up in Jasmine’s story as vividly lived by the scintillating Blanchett.  Personally, I am glad his films are not overlong.  Too many major studio films today are exceptionally long, well over two hours when they could easily be twenty minutes shorter.  A longer film is not necessarily a better film and as Shakespeare once said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Annie Hall, Allen’s best picture winner from 1977 is the second shortest film to ever win the title.

A cast of interesting characters played by great actors populate Blue Jasmine, and add to the whimsical tragedy of a modern day Blanch DuBois.  Here’s hoping we hear Cate Blanchett’s name on the Oscar ballot in January. 

 

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Friday, October 31, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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