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Blue Jasmine - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Blue Jasmine
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Woody Allen is long past his glory days -- arguably, decades past -- and yet no other director can match him in terms of sheer output over the past 47 years, inevitably with a few clunkers but, at the age of 77, he's put out a string of surprisingly decent films for this particular stage in his career. 2011's Midnight in Paris was alone the best he'd made in years, the kind of late-career high that is difficult to match again.

But if there's anyone who should not be underestimated, it's Woody Allen. Okay, so Blue Jasmine isn't quite as good -- but it comes close. And besides, both being Woody Allen movies notwithstanding, they're kind of apples and oranges. And Midnight in Paris is hard to beat when it's so magical and charming. Blue Jasmine, on the other hand, is a tad less cheerful.

Allen's late-career travel to cities around the world, that are notably not his iconic New York, here comes to San Francisco -- with flashbacks to New York. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is coming to live for a while with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) after losing all her money to her large-scale fraudulent husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). Hal is in many scenes, all of them flashbacks to their Park Avenue lives in New York, while Jasmine attempts to control her crazy. She has varying degrees of success. Blanchett and Hawkins look nothing like each other, so Woody Allen explains that by making them adoptive siblings. Ginger, who has both an ex-husband (Andrew Dice Clay) and a current boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) that Jasmine deems losers, constantly ascribes their different lots in life to their genes.

While Ginger is fundamentally a sweet, if perhaps naïve, person, Jasmine is a fascinating character study of an over-privileged woman buckling under the weight of years of self-delusion. It takes years for her to face the truth of her husband until she can no longer ignore his philandering -- the creative accounting means far less to her -- and then the choices she makes are rarely good for her or anybody around her. She spent a life accustomed to hosting parties as the wife of a rich husband, and now she has to face the prospect of getting a regular job. For some reason, in spite of Hal losing all the relatively large amount of lottery money she and her ex-husband gave him to invest for them, Ginger takes Jasmine in.

As you can imagine, this is a situation ripe for tension and nuance, and there is plenty of it -- expertly played by the actors. Woody Allen is famous for his very loose attachment to lines as written in the script, letting actors largely improvise. That makes a movie like this all the more impressive, because it's so easy to believe these characters and what motivates them, even when they are ignorantly acting against their own self-interests.

As always, there's a slew of supporting characters played by familiar faces, as every actor under the sun seems to think their resume is incomplete until they've been in a Woody Allen film. Here we even get Louis C.K. as a relatively brief romantic interest for Ginger -- and he's just as perfectly cast for it as
Peter Sarsgaard is as the boyfriend Jasmine is prone to pathologically lying to.

It's all about Jasmine, of course, which is appropriate given that in her world that is exactly the case -- whether she realizes it consciously or not. She doesn't seem aware of it; she regularly gets set off on telling the same story about how she and Hal met to the song "Blue Moon," no matter how inappropriate the time or the audience. Jasmine is a little nutso, but Cate Blanchett plays her with precise subtlety. This is really not the most uplifting movie -- there's never much hope for Jasmine -- and yet, from beginning to end, it's strangely compelling. You always want to find out what's next for her, even though you know it can't be something good. Allen even offers an unusually ambiguous ending, and Blue Jasmine is all the better for it.

blue jasmine

Overall: B+
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