Sunday, December 8, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Mention Woody Allen and most will think of his comedies, but he has shown over the course of his career (consisting of nearly a film a year since the 70s) that he is equally adept at films more dramatic in nature. His 1992 film Husbands and Wives is one great example. One can't watch the film and not keep in mind the director's high publicized personal crises and problems of the time and that makes the scenes between Allen and his ex-wife Mia Farrow ring all the more poignant and painful. Another great example of a Woody Allen drama is 2005's Match Point which features some of the most sexual and violent scenes in the filmmaker's career. These are the sort movies of his that might make you think you are not watching what has come to be named a "Woody Allen film". That being said, some inklings of the director's auteuristic tendencies sneak their way in and Allen's latest film Blue Jasmine is no exception to his dramatic ouvre.

The film has been described as Woody Allen's A Streetcar Named Desire mixed with Almodovar mixed with a ripped-from-the-headlines story about Bernie Madoff's family. The story is about Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett) whose husband (Alec Baldwin) was arrested for white collar/financial crimes leading Jasmine to abandon her very rich and elegant lifestyle in New York City to live with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in a more blue collar family apartment in San Francisco. The film is full of so many great scenes to talk about and I wish I had written this response closer to when I first saw the film, but to touch on a main point- Jasmine is mentally ill. She talks to herself, breaks into hysterics, stares into space, drinks, pops pills... this all sounds like it could be a classical comedy about a rich woman having to make due with a less-than-wealthy lifestyle, but Allen handles it as seriously as he can.

Of course, the true center of the film and what makes the movie work is the performance of Cate Blanchett as Jasmine. She is equally oft-putting and yet I feel the need to care for this woman. There is something about how Blanchett draws us in; this is another incredible high-point for her already illustrious career. The film also works in part thanks to Sally Hawkins (see Happy-Go-Lucky from Mike Leigh to witness Hawkins in another brilliant performance) whose ability to see silver linings and conquer her problems despite great hardship makes her the perfect antithesis to Blanchett's icey characterization. The rest of the cast is great with an honorable mention to Andrew Dice Clay (I never thought I'd say that I was so moved by a performance from the guy who shouted "Hickery Dickery Dock"). Then there's the ending- part downer and part fulfilling. It's just nice to have seen another great Allen film so soon after Midnight in Paris.

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