Mar 8, 2015

Review: Blue Jasmine (2013)

Most people who follow business news or news at all have heard of Bernie Madoff. Convicted of fraud in 2009, he became the poster child of what's wrong with the financial world after hurting a lot of people to the tune of several billion. Hal Francis who is played by Alec Baldwin reminds me quite a bit of Madoff and I'm sure that's what Woody Allen was intending. Although Madoff story and the Great Recession of 2008 were some years ago, financial scandals, ponzi schemes and golden parachutes are still on everyone's minds today which makes the story of Blue Jasmine quite relevant.

Blue Jasmine is probably mostly known for Cate Blanchett's powerhouse performance that netted her the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role as well as many other accolades. Her co-star Sally Hawkins also recieved some recognition as a supporting actress. What I find funny is that Blanchett is Australian, Hawkins is English and they're both playing American characters. This thing of having a Brit playing an American is getting to be such a common occurrence these days so it's probably not even worth the comment. 

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Genre: drama
Directed by: Woody Allen
Produced by: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson, etc.
Written by: Woody Allen
Music by: N/A
Running time: 99 minutes
Production company: Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics, Mars Distribution, Warner Bros., etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $18,000,000
Box office: $97,505,481 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tammy Blanchard, Max Casella, Alden Ehrenreich

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Synopsis


Jasmine Francis' (Cate Blanchett) mental and social status have deteriorated due to her husband Hal Francis (Alex Baldwin) being convicted of fraud. A socialite and used to living very luxuriously, Jasmine is forced to fly from New York to San Fransisco to temporarily move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Constantly remembering how her life used to be, Jasmine does what she can to remake her life and maintain her fading grip on reality.

Review


Make no mistake, Cate Blanchett is as good as advertised. There are quite a few occasions where Blanchett will just startlingly steal a scene when you least expect it. The facial expressions that Blanchett makes, just wow. She just does an admirable job at displaying the inner turmoil that Jasmine is going through. Sometimes it results in her sadly talking to herself and sometimes the emotions will all boil over in shouting and crying outbursts.

Watching her slowly descend deeper and deeper into madness is really quite sad. It's a bit strange to me that Wikipedia describes Blue Jasmine as a black-comedy/drama because outside maybe one or two scenes with Jasmine, it's all drama. Everyone has different responses to black comedies though which I suppose is why it's such a divisive genre. 

(Spoilers) I actually even had a moment where I thought Jasmine's new boyfriend Dwight Westlake (Peter Sarsgaard) wasn't actually real with her losing her grip on reality and all. I felt even worse when that seemed to be a possibility. It almost all made sense because they never once interacted with other people when they were together. I was proven wrong however once they were confronted by Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) outside the jewelry store. (End Spoilers) 

Woody Allen's screenplay has been said to be quite similar to the play A Streetcar Named Desire, but one aspect I definitely like about is its non-linearity. The story goes from the present to the past and back again as Jasmine's flashbacks act as exposition for all the film's characters as well as advance the story. You don't know everything that has happened right away, but Allen slowly peels off the skin as the pieces eventually come together in a satisfying way. Impressions of certain characters change even and I loved the contrast between happy, rich Jasmine and the mentally tortured, emotionally drained Jasmine. 

Woody Allen makes a painstaking effort to give all his characters a proper story. By the end of the film you know everybody almost personally. Allen has long been a pro at writing dialogue and he proves that with Blue Jasmine once again. There's not one line that's misplaced or uninteresting and that's a real accomplishment. After the long and storied career that Woody Allen's had though, is anyone really surprised?

One of the great things about Woody Allen films are seeing the great casts that he assembles and Blue Jasmine is no exception. Alec Baldwin is the perfect guy to be a ponzi scheme fraudster isn't he? I had no idea who Andrew Dice Clay was or that he was a comedian, but he seemed right at home as Augie, Ginger's ex-husband. Sally Hawkins herself is also superb. Honestly, everyone is superb which goes to show what a great director Woody Allen is. Even actors in tiny roles look good.

I'm a big fan of the story that Woody Allen has put together as well as the cast he's assembled. Cate Blanchett is also deserving of all the praise she's received so far for her portrayal of Jasmine which is lovely in the most depressing way. Blue Jasmine is thoroughly modern and explores a side to ponzi scheme scandals that we've never really seen before. Allen has always had his ups and downs but Blue Jasmine is a real up.

Rating


8/10