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'Blue Jasmine' Review: Cate Blanchett Excels in Woody Allen's Uneven New Film as a Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (TRAILER)

Reviews
by Beth Hanna
July 17, 2013 2:06 PM
2 Comments
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Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine"
Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine"

Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” features a knock-down, drag-out performance by Cate Blanchett as an emotionally frayed housewife who, through a series of trying betrayals, is all washed up. The film itself doesn’t match Blanchett’s stunning commitment -- which is a pity, because in various ways it is one of Allen’s more unusual works in years.

Jasmine (Blanchett) has come to live with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in San Francisco for a temporary amount of time while she gets back on her feet. As we learn in flashback structure, Jasmine was previously married to an exorbitantly wealthy businessman, Hal (Alec Baldwin), living a life of elegant finery, before Hal’s fraudulent business schemes were found out by the FBI and he was sent to prison, leaving Jasmine and Hal’s now estranged son (Alden Ehrenreich) penniless.

'Blue Jasmine'
'Blue Jasmine'

Jasmine, a tall, regal blonde, and Ginger, a cute, pint-sized brunette, are adopted sisters, which explains their physical dissimilarities. Their class differences are explained by a turning point in their adolescences: Ginger was less liked by their adoptive mother, and ran away at an early age, eking out her own living. 

In San Francisco, Ginger waffles back and forth between staying with her meathead fiance, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). And Jasmine must get a job and reluctantly takes a position in a dental office, as she harbors ambitions of becoming an interior decorator. She eventually meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a cultured diplomat living in the Bay Area, and through a few well-intentioned fibs that balloon into full-on lies, convinces him she’s a successful interior designer. 

Oh, and one more thing: Jasmine is completely mentally unstable. Blanchett gives a ferociously unvarnished performance, deftly capturing the jittering, rambling, free-wheelingly self-absorbed fluctuations of an entitled woman on the verge -- hell, in the midst -- of a nervous breakdown. Jasmine’s M.O. is that she’ll begin a seemingly innocuous story -- necessarily about her past life -- that at a certain point will take a hairpin turn into the depths of her frittered subconscious.

She’ll be staring directly at her sister, but suddenly speaking to a Manhattan housewife she used to know, trembling and thrusting her voice into a low, lethal rumble. Like Blanche DuBois of "A Streetcar Named Desire" before her, she can move from lucidity to delusion at breakneck speed, sometimes within a scene, sometimes between scenes, a vertiginous pace that Blanchett keeps up believably.

The flashback structure of “Blue Jasmine” thus emerges both as a storytelling technique but also as a glitch in Jasmine’s ability to cope with the present. In that vein, this is a remarkably formally elegant film. Allen returns to cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe, who gave “Vicky Christina Barcelona” its rich visual sense of warmth and intimacy.

2 Comments

  • David v | May 10, 2014 7:25 AMReply

    Yes - the San Francisco "Italian Guidos" seem out of place and yes - a Bay Area grocery cashier would not be able to afford Ginger's apartment. But more importantly I felt the dialogues were off. While many individuals can be insensitive and outright rude seldom they would openly and tactlessly condemn or harass you for having conducted a vane and comfortable life before plummeting into poverty especially if they sense you are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Still this appears to be the main activity all characters keep them busy with. And when you see somebody on the street talking to herself you do not turnaround and start staring at her which is what passers-by do over and over in SFO to Jasmine. Oh and I forget - the diplomat prince charming section is so unreal that makes the movie totally unrealistic.

  • Brian | July 18, 2013 10:49 AMReply

    With the exception of RADIO DAYS, about his own Brooklyn childhood, Woody Allen's never shown a sense in his films of how working-class people live. He's often treated working-class people, particularly Italian-Americans, in the most stereotypical fashion. Just look at ANNIE HALL, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE and THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO to see what I mean. And he's led such a life of deliberate and pampered isolation that he's never allowed himself the opportunity to see how the "other half" lives. It's not like he goes out and does any research before making a film.

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