Saturday, March 8, 2014

Woody Allen's Update of A Streetcar Named Desire: Blue Jasmine Beckons.

Movie Review: Blue Jasmine

Director: Woody Allen

Reviewed: 7 March 2014

jamesintexas rating-- ***

Cate Blanchett's Oscar-winning performance as Jasmine French, the socialite wife of a Bernie Madoff-esque criminal (Alec Baldwin) anchors another strong film from director Woody Allen, and what lingers in the mind is Blanchett's strong performance because of it essentially being a showcase for one of our finest actors. Due to an elaborate structure that weaves back and forth in time from the East Coast to the West Coast, from the wealthy, good times to the desperate, penniless ones, Blanchett gets to show off her chops, playing naive, anxious, confident, lost, and panicky, all while holding Jasmine's distinct air of elegance. Clutching her Hermes bag, displaying a brittle fragility, always in search of a drink and a rapid fire conversation, Jasmine flees New York to San Francisco, staying with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and colliding with her relationships, past (Andrew Dice Clay) and present (Bobby Cannavale). Jasmine's deteriorating mental state reveals itself through near-breakdowns, frantic monologues to herself, and a desperate fling to try and recapture what she had lost. Similarly, her sister's relationships mirror her own coming to terms with who she is, and the clash of coasts and values comes together in unlikely and surprising ways.

I like that Blue Jasmine is mostly a film about people talking and bouncing off of each other's personalities, and Allen elicits marvelous work out of Sally Hawkins and Andrew Dice Clay among others. If Clay's Augie is the Stanley to Jasmine's Blanche, then the denouement, albeit clunky in its reliance upon coincidence and being in the right place at the right time, quietly destroys her attempt to regain lost position. Blanchett carries the film up until the final scene, and I was never bored by this tale. There is an air of the modern with the references to the Wall Street malfeasance of recent years that makes this film less dusty than some of Allen's recent ones. I recommend seeing it on the strength of the cast alone, and Blanchett's accolades are most deserving.

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