Blue Jasmine

August, 2013, Drama

 

Woody Allen’s latest, a rather flippant riff on Streetcar Named Desire, has one outstanding component that shouldn’t be missed – Cate Blanchet’s mesmerizing performance as Jasmine. Beyond that, this 49th entry in the writer/director’s oeuvre provides little to either enlighten or offend. Overlong even at an hour and a half, this chronicle about the fall from grace of an upper-East Side socialite whose philandering husband turns out to be a crook concentrates so much attention on Ms. Blanchett’s character it fails to place her in a vehicle worthy of the actress’ talents – but she’ll spend the rest of her career looking for another role half as good as this one. 

 Jasmine’s adulterous husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) balances financial felonies with ample doses of adulterous liaisons and when he announces he’s dumping his pampered & bejeweled bride for an au pair half his age, Jasmine’s knocked off her perch as a Manhattan socialite. Reeking of vodka and sanctimoniousness, she dashes off to San Francisco in order to freeload on her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) to whom financial and romantic fate have been far less kind. Over the course of a few short weeks, Jasmine takes a job as a dental receptionist, rejects her boss’ advances and meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) a West Coast version of the man of her dreams, all while relentlessly disparaging Ginger’s taste in boyfriends and home décor.  Despite her determined efforts to reinvent herself, Jasmine’s past inevitably catches up with her…

 Creating a character so oblivious to her own self-centered shallowness that she publicly self-destructs requires great dialogue and outstanding acting talent - - and both are in abundant supply here. As Blanchett’s muse, Allen provides lines which make Jasmine’s self-absorption chillingly apparent to everyone but herself and the character’s inability to grasp the danger signs in her downward trajectory require Blanchett to teeter precariously between her acute observations of others and an inability – fueled by booze, prescription drugs and sanctimonious self-pity – to understand she’s the source of her own misery. Making such an unattractive character compelling is tall order and Ms. Blanchett gives audiences the best performance in an already award-winning career.

 That aside, the remainder of Blue Jasmine is standard Allen fare, with a supporting cast of schleps embedded in a typical Allen-esque farce pervaded by the director’s self-reverential cynicism.  If only the rest of its script and performances could have matched the high standards set by its star…

 The Verdict? Great Blanchett, flashes of Allen’s screenwriting brilliance but little else.

 

 

Creating a character so oblivious to her own self-centered shallowness that she publicly self-destructs requires great dialogue and outstanding acting talent - - and both are in abundant supply here. As Blanchett’s muse, Allen provides lines which make Jasmine’s self-absorption chillingly apparent to everyone but herself and the character’s inability to grasp the danger signs in her downward trajectory require Blanchett to teeter precariously between her acute observations of others and an inability – fueled by booze, prescription drugs and sanctimonious self-pity – to understand she’s the source of her own misery. Making such an unattractive character compelling is tall order and Ms. Blanchett gives audiences the best performance in an already award-winning career.

 

That aside, the remainder of Blue Jasmine is standard Allen fare, with a supporting cast of schleps embedded in a typical Allen-esque farce pervaded by the director’s self-reverential cynicism.  If only the rest of its script and performances could have matched the high standards set by its star…

 

The Verdict? Great Blanchett, flashes of Allen’s screenwriting brilliance but little else.

 

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