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Movie Review: Blue Jasmine
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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Blue Jasmine PosterBlue Jasmine
Director: Woody Allen
Screenwriter: Woody Allen
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated PG-13 | 98 Minutes
Release Date: July 26, 2013

Written and directed by Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) as Jasmine, a Manhattan socialite who moves to San Francisco to live with her estranged sister after her wealthy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) divorces her.

Her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky), is trying to get her own life together: she just ditched her rough around the edges husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) after he lost all their money in business dealings with Hal.

Unable to afford the high-rises of Manhattan after her divorce, Jasmine forces herself back into Ginger’s life where she meets her sister’s latest boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a nice enough blue-collar guy who doesn’t live up to Jasmine’s still-upper class standards.

Jasmine is a frenetic ball of nervous energy, wounded and abandoned. With the help of booze and anti-depressants, she attempts to put her life back together piece by piece. She gets a day job, goes on dates, and slowly learns how to fend for herself.

Blue Jasmine would be a typical (dare I say, mediocre) “slice-of-life” Woody Allen movie if not for Blanchett’s incredible, full-bodied performance. The film is put together in non-linear pieces, slowly unveiling the circumstances leading to Jasmine’s divorce and subsequent nervous breakdown, and throughout Blanchett remains consistently captivating and heartbreaking.

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

You really start to worry for her as she begins talking to herself, losing her grasp on sanity. You want her to be self-sufficient but, at the same time, you realize she needs someone to take care of her. I’m talking about this character like a real person, debating what would be best for her – whether she should throw personal growth to the side and cling to the safety of another wealthy man – because that’s how strong Blanchett’s performance is – she has created a fully developed, multilayered human being.

Baldwin breezes through his part, playing a less absurd, but still absurdly rich version of 30 Rock‘s Jack Donaghy, while Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K. do an admirable job of keeping up with the rest of Allen’s ensemble. Peter Sarsgaard takes a break from playing serial killers and assorted villains to play an eligible bachelor that enables Jasmine to fall back into her old habits, and of course Hawkins and Cannavale are great in supporting roles.

Without these performances, Allen wouldn’t have much of a movie – the plot itself isn’t too intriguing – and Allen’s sense of direction and storytelling feels so standardized at this point that he might as well start selling his shooting scripts as easy-to-use templates for aspiring indie filmmakers (like Greta Gerwig, who must have used the Manhattan screenplay as a Mad Libs for her film Frances Ha).

While the film itself is somewhat forgettable, Cate Blanchett delivers the best performance I’ve seen this year. She’ll no doubt receive numerous nominations and awards for her turn as a sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, always haughty and well-bred socialite on the verge of complete collapse.

Blue Jasmine is certainly a step above Allen’s last directorial effort, To Rome with Love, but it isn’t as strong as his peak late-period films Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. Still, I would recommend seeing Blue Jasmine for some great performances from an intriguing ensemble of big screen (and stand-up) personalities. I mean come on, Andrew Dice Clay people! Bada Bing!

Trailer

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