Friday, August 2, 2013

Blue Jasmine Movie Review

Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin (r) in Blue Jasmine

Up, Down and Manic All Around

I've grown to admire Woody Allen the filmmaker a great deal of late; especially after Match Point & Cassandra's Dream... two films that took a welcome break from Allen's usual MO of romantic comedy/dramedy. His latest film, Blue Jasmine is billed as a drama - true, but one that borders on depressing, sprinkled with occasional flashbacks/rays of sunshine.

IMDb Plot: A life crisis causes a woman to head to San Francisco, where she reconnects with her sister.

What’s Best: Sad or not, few actors hold a candle to Cate Blanchett. The Oscar winner bounces back and forth from socialite to failure, and from giddy to hopeless with equal aplomb... all the while flashing a rare combination of style and vulnerability. Stocked with the lion's share of good lines, Blanchett doesn't waste any of Allen's edgy prose... always keeping sight of her main goal - to live above everyone else, including her own sister (lesser genes and all.)

Side characters chime in with moments of their own, including Alec Baldwin as Hal, Allen's version of Bernie Madoff. His character doesn't necessarily "stand out," but he's oh-so-enjoyable to watch... the consummate charmer. Sally Hawkins plays Jasmine's flighty sister with utter believability, while ex-hubby Augie (great name) is played with Member's Only-like sophistication by Dice Clay. Solid writing such as coming up with a good reason to reschedule a dental appointment, 'That's my colonoscopy prep day. It's very special.' rounds out a relatively good film.

What’s Not: I loved the flashback portions of the movie, but even Blanchett's masterful performance can't hide the fact that the final half of Blue Jasmine is downright depressing. Perhaps downing vodka and popping pills while fighting off attempted rape and panic attacks is your idea of fun, but... Jasmine's "fall from grace" happens not once, but twice; and although she puts up a solid front (and may even deserve some/most of it) you have to feel bad for her.

As for Allen, I couldn't help but find his trademark jazzy music background inappropriate during some of the more dramatic scenes. It's as if he temporarily lost track of the line between comedy and drama. Editing (Alisa Lepselter) anyone? Or do we have Allen the musician to blame?

Best Line: When Ginger (Hawkins) and Augie visit Jasmine & Hal in New York, Jasmine complains, 'They're hard work. I'm taking (tomorrow) off: I've neglected everything. Yoga. Pilates." Nice to see we have our priorities in a row.

Overall: Blue Jasmine isn't vintage Woody Allen, but it offers a great chance to see Blanchett at her absolute best. Jasmine's ups and (mostly) downs are portrayed with chilling authenticity, but they're not always entertaining. Both Jasmine & her sister seem to jump from one opportunity to the next with little regard for the other person(s) involved. It looks and sounds a lot like real life... hardly the type of thing I want to watch for two hours. Thankfully, there's plenty of positives to keep you company.