Blue Jasmine Review

Posted: August 25, 2013 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

SONY-JUOS-01_Onesheet_Layout 1Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I remember in July of 2011, having to write my review for Midnight in Paris and having to embarrassingly admit I had never seen a Woody Allen film before it. In the two years since then, I’ve done my best to eliminate this blind spot in my film viewing. I’m by no means an Allen expert now, but I have seen a lot more of his films and have seen most of his most major works. Allen’s become one of my favourite filmmakers and I’ve liked all of his films to some extent. The downside to this is that while Allen may not have made a bad film (that I’ve seen) there are quite a few films which are merely good or okay. This is the trade-off for making a film a year. That’s why it’s always exciting when an Allen film receives great reviews, and the possibility that Allen has made something special presents itself. Such was the case with Blue Jasmine.

The film follows Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett), a formerly rich socialite forced to move in with her lower-middle class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) after Jasmine’s husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for illegal business decisions. Jasmine tries to adjust to her new surroundings and get back on her feet, but finds herself clashing with her sister and her sister’s auto-mechanic boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). Flashbacks also detail Jasmine’s glamorous marriage and its eventual downfall.

While a lot of Allen’s recent works have a sense of timelessness, Blue Jasmine is very contemporary. Hal’s arrest for illegal business dealings certainly feels inspired by the Bernie Madoff case and certain details of the case are used here. What really gives the film its sense of timing is the way it portrays the differences between classes. This has obviously been an extremely relevant topic in recent years and a lot of films in the last few years have tackled the issue. Though Allen’s portrayal of the wealthy certainly has a hint of satire, he wisely avoids vilifying the rich. In fact the lower class is shown to be just as screwed up and hypocritical as the upper class. Like most of Allen’s films, the ultimate revelation is a minor one, but a revelation which rings true all the same.

The title character is one of Allen’s most interesting in years. Jasmine is a woman who has defined herself entirely on her material positions and the shallow standards of her fellow socialites. With all that stripped away, Jasmine is faced with an identity crises, yet even with nothing she still tries to desperately cling to her sense of superiority and refinement. There’s also a lot of little details that I like too, for example there’s a scene where Jasmine talks about how she won’t work certain jobs because of how menial they are, yet her former lifestyle was just as insubstantial.

Jasmine is brought to life brilliantly by Cate Blanchett. Certain elements of her character, such as her talking to herself, could have come off horribly but Blanchett really sells it. In addition to handling a wide range of emotions, Blanchett creates a fully three dimensional character who feels real. It would have been easy for Jasmine to become a caricature, but Blanchett never allows the character to fall into an easily definable groove. I was also impressed by just how invested Blanchett is able to get the audience. Jasmine is on the whole a pretty unlikable person, but Blanchett keeps the audience behind her. You don’t like her per say, but you’re interested in her story and can’t look away.

Blue Jasmine is certainly Cate Blanchett’s film, but the rest of the cast does good work as well. The cast member getting the most attention is Andrew Dice Clay. I’m actually surprised that Clay is getting the attention he is. Not because he’s bad, but because it’s not a very showy performance. Truth is Clay is very good here and his success comes from not over playing his role. In the film, Clay plays Ginger’s ex-husband seen as a loser by Jasmine. It would have been easy for Clay to play the part in a very big, loud, and angry way. Instead, his work is much more subtle and he gives the character a sense of sadness. Sally Hawkins is also very good as Jasmine’s sister who is just as shallow and hypocritical as Jasmine in her own way. There are also some fun performances from Louis CK, Bobby Cannavale, and Peter Saarsgard.

Woody Allen’s script features the great dialogue you’ve come to expect from him. Jasmine’s dialogue is especially fun and despite her flaws is the most well-spoken of the characters. The film also has a good mix of comedy and drama. There isn’t much in the way of life out loud hilarity, but that’s not what the film is going for. Instead the film is just extremely amusing. The story here is also quite good and while the plot is not extremely intricate it is interesting and features a nice twist. As a director, Allen lives up to his usual standards. That is to say, the filmmaking is quite good even if it never excels on a technical level.

What ultimately holds Blue Jasmine back is a feeling of déjà vu. The themes analyzed are ones Allen has dealt with his entire career and his approach to them in Blue Jasmine isn’t exactly revolutionary. The film also lacks that certain something that makes other Allen works like Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, and to a lesser extent Midnight in Paris the great films they are. Still, Blue Jasmine is a great film in its own right. It’s well put together, features great acting, and is generally one of the most compelling films I’ve seen this year. It may be well-treaded ground for Woody Allen, but when the execution is this good it’s hard to really complain.

A-

Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review Dan. The cast is very good, especially Blanchett who, if she’s real lucky, may be looking at another Oscar nomination. However, the rest of the movie felt messy for me, as if it didn’t know whether or not it wanted to be a comedy, a drama, or a satire. Or maybe even, a little bit of all three.

  2. Fantastic. I claim to be an Allen and Blanchett follower, but forgot to watch this one. Excellent review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s