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Movie Review: Blue Jasmine

By Storycarnivores @storycarnivores

blue-jasmine-poster01Title: Blue Jasmine
Directed by: Woody Allen
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Release Date: August 23rd
Rated: PG-13

Synopsis: A life crisis causes a vapid and narcissistic socialite to head to San Francisco, where she tries to reconnect with her sister. (Via IMDB)

Brian’s Review: It’s well known that Woody Allen, one of my five favorite film directors, has been hit-or-miss during the last fifteen years, with only three true stand-outs—Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Midnight in Paris (not to mention The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, a goofy guilty pleasure of mine). When he’s good, he’s great, but when he’s bad, he can be very bad. Movies like Anything Else and Scoop are downright embarrassing, with last year’s To Rome With Love adding another clunker to his resume. But what continues to appeal to me about Allen, besides the fact that he’s made five of my favorite movies ever (Annie Hall, Interiors, Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors), is that in a nearly fifty year career in writing and directing films, he continues to crank out a movie a year, and continues to try new things. Blue Jasmine is a marvelous success, one of his best movies in a long, long time, due in no small part to a tour-de-force, Oscar-worthy performance by Cate Blanchett.

Allen is known for his New York films, but he broke out of that mold in 2005 with Match Point, and ever since he has surprised us with his choice of locale. In Blue Jasmine, Allen travels to San Francisco for the first time, and tells a story of a rich housewife named Jasmine (Blanchett) who loses everything when her husband (Alec Baldwin) goes to jail for fraud. She moves from New York to SF to live with her adopted sister (a radiant Sally Hawkins) and try to put her life back together. Unfortunately, she become increasingly unstable and struggles both with jobs and her social life. The movie is fresh in its writing and construction—Allen cuts back and forth in time to show where Jasmine has been and how she’s dealing with the mess of her life now—but the joy in Blue Jasmine is getting the opportunity to watch Blanchett sink her teeth into a role like she hasn’t done in years. She won the Oscar for The Aviator nine years ago, and this film gives her a solid shot at a second win. She’s Allen’s most original, daring creation since Penelope Cruz’s firecracker in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She doesn’t get one or two meaty scenes sprinkled throughout the run-time. Blanchett gets the opportunity to soar with manic energy in scene after scene after scene, and she embraces the challenge.

Blue Jasmine isn’t all just Blanchett, however, but is chockfull of terrific supporting performances, from Hawkins and Baldwin, and also from a hilarious Bobby Cannavale and an earnest Peter Sarsgaard, not to mention two surprisingly deft performances from the comics Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. Allen employs his typical style by having many of the shots go on and on, allowing the actors to really live in the scene, and in the moment. It’s something I’ve always loved about his movies, and I’m thrilled all these years later that he’s never lost sight of his storytelling technique. Of course it doesn’t matter how long he lets the take run if we don’t care what’s happening on screen, but in Blue Jasmine, he’s crafted one of his more fascinating stories of recent years, the kind that makes you laugh all the way through, and then leaves you pondering what you found so damn funny at the very end. Blue Jasmine doesn’t have the magical fascination of Midnight in Paris, but it offers his best contemporary story since Match Point, and easily one of the best movies of the year.

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