'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
1 Comment
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“Blue Jasmine” also acts as a class critique, which is where the film falters. Allen knows the Manhattan upper-class scene like the back of his hand. The flashback sequences with Blanchett and Baldwin as beautiful socialites have a sharp, observant authenticity. The scenes set in present-day San Francisco, however, are oddly off.

Allen’s characterization of working-class people plays as mildly exploitative. Ginger’s first husband, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), is a Jersey Boy type, while Cannavale as her current boyfriend Chili is a more hyperbolic, stereotypical version of Augie. Slicked hair, tight t-shirts, artificially tanned skin and New Yawkuh accents for both of these characters reveal a lack of imagination on Allen’s part but also a strangely off-kilter sense of place. Both Augie and Chili are coded as East Coast -- uncultured meatheads played for laughs -- yet they’re Bay Area residents.

Meanwhile, Ginger is a divorced single mother, and grocery bagger, living in a sprawling San Francisco apartment. No matter how often Jasmine glares down her nose at her sister’s supposedly squalid abode, we aren’t convinced that the bohemian-chic and spacious flat is the home of someone struggling to make ends meet.

These aspects ultimately seem careless in a film that in many ways is impressively dark and nuanced. In his later films, Allen struggles with supporting roles. A lead character -- such as Blanchett here -- is fleshed out, three-dimensional and often winningly rich with the signature neuroses and insecurities that Allen has made a lifelong obsession. Yet smaller characters are tossed off and inconsistent -- both the talented Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K. are given fairly thankless roles in the film -- while observations about cultural environments have a tourist-like superficiality.

Blanchett’s wonderfully unwieldy character in “Blue Jasmine” has tasted the highs and lows of what life has to offer, and simmers with volatile frustration and pathos. I can’t help but share a bit of her frustration. Much of “Blue Jasmine” is very good -- why must it be so uneven?

"Blue Jasmine" hits theaters July 26, via Sony Pictures Classics.

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1 Comment

  • 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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