Friday, August 9, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Film: Blue Jasmine

Starring: Cate Blanchett (Hanna), Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham) and Bobby Cannavale (Win Win)

Director: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)

U.S. Release: July 26th, 2013 (Limited Release - Rated PG-13)

Genre: Drama

Runtime: 98 minutes

After the ballooned success from writer/director Woody Allen's imaginative indie comedy, Midnight in Paris, the legend of Hollywood continues to please audiences in the twilight of his career with Blue Jasmine. Allen's latest release not only marks the theatrical return of Andrew Dice Clay, it also has the writer/director matching talents with Academy Award Winner Cate Blanchett. With all of its parts perfectly in place, Blue Jasmine is another winning effort filmed in typical Woody Allen fashion.

Cate Blanchett stars as Jasmine, an over-the-top socialite who is forced to move in with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in the wake of her crumbling marriage to a crooked financial investor (Alec Baldwin). Completely self-obsessed and undeniably shallow, Jasmine can't seem to escape the trail of destruction that follows her into the next phase of her life.

Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine deserves to be both lauded and bashed for a multitude of interconnected reasons. While scratching and clawing your way through the film's sluggish 98 minute running time, you can't help but revel in the onscreen brilliance of Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett. It's extremely challenging to center a movie around such a despicable and unlikable character, however, the skilled actress delivers a seemingly effortless performance. Blanchett's onscreen work definitely stands out as one of the finest Lead Actress performances that I've seen all year. So impressive, in fact, that even with highly anticipated roles such as Princess Diana (Naomi Watts) and Grace Kelly (Nicole Kidman) patiently waiting to make an awards-season strike, I still wouldn't count her out of Oscar contention just yet. In addition to Blanchett, Allen maximizes the talent from his cast by sculpting secondary characters that demonstrate an enormous amount of depth. Extraordinary turns from Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay simply reinforce the fact that Blue Jasmine is a superbly acted feature.

For as wonderful as its cast is, Blue Jasmine struggles to achieve in many other areas. For example, the film's cyclic approach and repetitive nature help generate an interesting thought ... not much really happens in the movie. We're given a completely inexplicable title character who constantly drowns in her own self pity. She tells the same stories, lives by the same mantra and expects her life to change somehow. It's an irritating facet that's hard to ignore and even more difficult to overcome. In many ways I found solace in Allen's work by convincing myself that Jasmine is simply the glue that ties together a collection of more engaging sub-stories concerning its secondary characters. Although Jasmine may never learn from her mistakes, perhaps those affected by her nonsense can improve for the better. Thanks to Allen's universe of notable supporting characters, Blue Jasmine conquers its faults and makes for a worthwhile feature.

I've always enjoyed the carefully calculated blend of drama and comedy that's prevalent in any Woody Allen film. The writer/director has his own style of telling what often feels like a fable, and Blue Jasmine is no exception. Allen's latest effort has heart and meaning, even if you have to jump over some hurdles to get there. If you've found yourself enjoying other Woody Allen films of the past, then it's worth it to take a chance on Blue Jasmine.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

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