Blue Jasmine

© 2013 Ray Wong

For me, Woody Allen is often a hit or miss. He's usually better when he's only directing and not acting in his films. With Blue Jasmine, Allen stays out of the spotlight, which shines primarily on Cate Blanchett. That's a great call.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has lost everything. The wife of wealthy investment banker Hal (Alec Baldwin), she has a nervous breakdown after Hal was arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. She gets better, and with the little possession and money she has, she flies from the Hamptons to San Francisco (via first class, no less) to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) hoping to start over again.

At the core, Jasmine is a snotty elitist who rides on her good looks and good taste, and she has no patience for anyone who she deems "losers," such as Ginger's ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). And yet she clings to Jasmine as she is her last hope to survive, even though she doesn't really think much of her adoptive sister or her new beau (Bobby Cannavale) and friends.

Trying to start her life over again, she becomes a receptionist for a dentist while taking computer classes so she can eventually take online classes to become an interior designer. Her plans are deterred when she meets dashing widower Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). However, Jasmine's troubled past, her mental instability and narrow world view soon threatens her new-found happiness.

Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) is absolutely stunning and amazing as Jasmine. The movie rests squarely on her shoulders and she delivers a tour-de-force performance as the layered, fragile, but snooty Jasmine. Her range is stunning and the layers she's brought to this shallow, obnoxiously elitist character is incredibly subtle and nuanced, and yet affecting and mesmerizing. You don't want to like her character, but you can't help but want her to find happiness, and it's heartbreaking to watch. Blanchett is haunting to watch. This is truly Blanchett's show.

The supporting cast does a fine job matching Blanchett's superb performance with some exceptions. Alec Baldwin (Rock of Ages) is in excellent form playing a scoundrel; however, it seems that he's channeling his character in 30 Rock. Sally Hawkins (Great Expectations) is also wonderful as Ginger, a very down-to-Earth, likable character that is a complete opposite of Jasmine.

Andrew Dice Clay (Whatever It Takes) stands out like a sore thumb, however, among his fellow veteran actors. Even though he fits the character perfectly, Clay simply doesn't have the acting chops to match the stellar performances of his colleague. Bobby Cannavale (Lovelace) somehow turns his caricature goofy Italian loser into a likable, three dimensional character. Peter Sarsgaard (Lovelace) also turns in a good performance as the love-sick puppy who wants to marry a hot mess.

The screenplay by Allen (Midnight in Paris) is not his strongest, which is riddled with quite a bit of stereotypes and cliches. In fact, without the actors' excellent performances, the characters all sound familiar and cliched on paper. The situations also lack Allen's usual sarcastic, humorous wit. Instead often I feel that he's going for the obvious, cheap laughs but creating quirky and absurd characters that border on being human cartoons. If not for the strong anchor of actors such as Blanchett and Baldwin to hold it down, the story seems to fizzle and is rough on the edges.

Allen's direction also seem to lack a certain finesse that we saw in his recent films. There's a certain low-budget feel to this movie. I am sure Allen didn't work with a budget of hundreds of millions, but compared to the production value of Midnight in Paris, this movie looks cheap (except for the New York and Hamptons sets, of course).

Despite my indifference of Woody Allen's inconsistency, I actually did enjoy the movie mostly because of the actor, led by a stupendous Blanchett. If you're a fan of Blanchett or Allen, you wouldn't be disappointed. 

Stars: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Max Casella, Peter Sarsgaard
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Distributor: Sony Classics
MPAA Rating:  PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content
Running Time: 98 minutes


Script - 7
Performance - 8
Direction - 7
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 7
Production - 7

Total - 7.3 out of 10.0 

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