January 9, 2014

Blue Jasmine Review

           When you really think about it, it’s quite surprising that Woody Allen has had one of the longest and most acclaimed careers as a director in cinematic history.  Allen is a good director and an even better writer, but most of the projects that Allen takes on are lightweight.  Even his best (such as Annie Hall) are charming films that will certainly garner emotion from the audience but will rarely challenge the audience.  So it just goes to show you how good Allen is at what he does since he is still working at an incredible rate without that film that really makes you think.  However, when a Woody Allen film has a problem, the problem becomes glaring to the point that it can almost derail an entire film.  That’s the case with his latest film, Blue Jasmine.  Allen scored big time with a fantastic cast for his latest project, but Blue Jasmine is almost derailed by a chaotic plot that ultimately doesn’t take you anywhere important or even interesting.

            Blue Jasmine follows Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), the former wife of a mega-banker (Alec Baldwin) who killed himself after he was arrested for his role in a Ponzi scheme, as she tries to re-acclimate with regular life.  In order to do so she decides to live with her adopted sister (Sally Hawkins), which will only cause further problems for both of them.  The film is directed and written by Woody Allen.

            The story presented within Blue Jasmine is quite messy, and that becomes quite problematic for the film.  There is a consistent stream of flashbacks to a previous storyline in the film that just feels inorganic to the story already being presented.  Time spent on this storyline probably could have been better used on observing the main characters (specifically Jasmine) from more than just a far away glance.  We never get to connect emotionally with these characters, and that puts a lot of work on the actors (especially with Jasmine and Cate Blanchett as it is very difficult to find anything redeeming with the former).  Due to these problems, this film ultimately comes across as a lesser effort from Woody Allen, who has created way more interesting characters in more engaging scenarios.

            Luckily, the cast tries it’s hardest to salvage the film.  Cate Blanchett almost pulls of the impossible by finding a way to inject sympathy into her character.  She doesn’t quite get there, but Blanchett brings so much authenticity to Jasmine’s struggle to survive in a world she is unfamiliar with that she at least makes the character interesting.  Sally Hawkins is almost just as good as Blanchett as she is forced to become the glue at the center of the film even if she doesn’t get the showy part.  The supporting cast is also filled to the rim with strong work such as performances from Bobby Cannavale (as the charming boyfriend of Sally Hawkins’ character), Michael Stuhlbarg (as a creepy dentist that Jasmine interacts with) and Andrew Dice Clay (who might just give the best performance in the film as the obnoxious but sympathetic ex-husband of Sally Hawkins’ character).

            Blue Jasmine is a lesser effort from Woody Allen that is ultimately saved by a strong cast.


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