Blue Jasmine

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Release: Friday, July 26, 2013 (limited)

[Theater]

Blue Jasmine is the film that has officially given me a reason to side with some harsh detractors of the Woody Allen school of film. Provided that I’ve only seen two of his films (To Rome With Love being the other) I can’t say definitively whether I fully embrace his films but I appreciate his style — and moreover, his output. He’s one of those movie-per-year kind of directors, and has harvested a massive crop of films that have yielded above-average, if not phenomenal levels of commercial and critical success over the past couple of decades.

The primary complaints lodged against this director’s repertoire involve the following: a stuffy atmosphere, central characters that are difficult to like and/or defend, and a narrative that tends to meander quite a lot relative to the overall runtime (most Allen movies clock in at barely over 90 minutes). While this most recent love story amply evidences justification for such criticism, no trait makes itself more apparent than the second — the fact that Allen likes to work with ‘unlikable’ characters. In fact, it was so difficult to sit through the trials and tribulations of this cast of down-and-outers that it got to the point where the overall movie became a chore to watch. And that is an incredible disappointment considering all the high hope I was bringing with me into the theater.

But before anyone begins to panic and think this is about to be another rant-review, I have to put this out there: I don’t own any Louis Vuitton handbags. There, I said it. I have outed myself as not the target audience for this one.

Nor do I really care much about Louis Vuitton. Or the fashion world. Or high society. Or Alec Bald….okay, yeah, maybe Alec Baldwin. However, and it must be said that it’s not always imperative that a viewer be impressed by or even care about the movie’s choices in thematic elements, this is a film where it really wouldn’t hurt to have some interest in them. Allen’s signature quirky eye isn’t to blame for the sheer lack of enjoyment, nor is the acting really. In fact, Cate Blanchett is almost too convincing here. She is a full-blown alcoholic and more than a little unstable as Jeanette “Jasmine” French, a woman who’s been sent crashing down to Earth after her recent marriage ended in an FBI investigation and has rendered her with no other option but to move in with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who is living a more modest life in San Francisco.

No. Blanchett turns in one hell of a performance as Jasmine. Though she could not have irritated me more with the requisite snootiness of a woman displaced from her lavish lifestyle in New York, I could appreciate the level to which the actress had physically and mentally embraced this emotionally fragile state of just such an individual. One particular highlight is the fact that Jasmine goes off on tangents and talks to herself in public, appearing at times like a complete and total nutcase. Indeed, she’s an interesting character even if she doesn’t do a single thing that’s admirable in the slightest.

However, the narrative is shifty, often confusing and occasionally jarring as it darts back and forth between significant past events and catching us up with Jasmine’s mounting despair as she lives with her sister in the present. In spite of things she forges attempts to “better herself,” and move on with her life. That, and. . . well, the rest of the cast are not exactly a likable bunch, either. Featuring Louis C.K., Peter Sarsgaard, Andrew Dice Clay, and Bobby Cannavale, Blue Jasmine truly plucks the apples who have fallen the farthest from the tree, if truth is to be told here. C.K. plays the potential future love interest for Ginger, during a bout of overconfidence brought forth by Jasmine as she brings her along to a party to meet guys and officially put themselves back on the market. Spoilers come from explaining his character, but let it be said that he provides a great example of how Allen likes to give his characters layers. For as brief of a time C.K. is involved, he makes a big impression.

The Diceman makes his insanely inconspicuous appearance in the extensive flashback scenes, playing the ex-loser boyfriend of Ginger who also happens to be upset with her sister. And then there’s of course Bobby Cannavale as the current boyfriend, Chili, who appears to be nothing more than the next pick out of the abusive boyfriend pile. He’s a volatile, aggressive and moody guy who can’t help but cry in public when things don’t go his way. He demonstrates Ginger’s taste in men quite clearly and is perhaps one of the most frustrating aspects to this film. The one-man island of amiable characters lies within Peter Sarsgaard’s Dwight, a man whom Jasmine bumps into at that same party — an aspiring Californian congressman who Jasmine takes to quickly because of his high aspirations and warm personality. Aside from him though, everyone else is some varying degree of sleazy, miserable or just plain drunk.

But supposing these are the attractive qualities to the latest from Woody Allen. Did I just miss the boat with this cast or something? Maybe I am overlooking something critical in my evaluation here but it seems that in order to enjoy a movie, it’s a good idea to have at least a couple characters to root for. That’s decidedly not the case here. Not to mention, there are more than a few moments throughout the film that are simply stressful and uncomfortable.

All around, this is likely to be one of his least-appealing Woody Allen offerings given the vast amount of time one is likely to spend wondering just how the hell this woman is going to make anything of herself in her frenzied state. The film is somewhat unforgiving in that regard. At times, you just would like to see the poor woman rest and escape all of her problems (that is, without reaching for a bottle of vodka). Blanchett really humbles herself with this unattractive person she’s just turned herself into. Allen here seems content enough to watch his cast squirm under the crushing weight of sobering realities. Unfortunately, he also crushes any hope for enjoyment at the same time.

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2-5Recommendation: I didn’t enjoy this at all, but then again, I found myself well outside of the intended audience for Blue Jasmine. As the central character is somewhat obsessed with fashion and interior decorating/design, perhaps those who find themselves engaged in those things in the real world will find great enjoyment in Blanchett’s whimsical attempts to become reintegrated into that lifestyle. Though, for those who don’t particularly care to watch someone suffer for the duration of a film — even if that person has brought it upon themselves — it’s best to stay away.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 98 mins.

Quoted: “Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.”

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.comhttp://www.imdb.com 

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19 thoughts on “Blue Jasmine

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  3. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve been a fan of Woody’s my entire life, but this one dissapointed me. I know Jasmine was so obsessed with her tragedy that we had to hear her all over again and again, but then how could she overwhelmed everybody -including her nephews – but Dwight (Sarsgaard’s character) didn’t get a minimal clue about her depression or alcoholism?

    • yeah, really. it seemed to be a little oversight with his character. then again, Sarsgaard’s Dwight seemed to be one of the only likable characters who was about to be the future love interest for Jasmine, so it was interesting seeing how he reacted once he found out. obviously, it didn’t go well for her. she was a really tragic character i must admit, but i still didn’t like her one bit. thanks for leaving a comment

    • teehee! i definitely appreciated how good Blanchett was here, you’re right. it could be a career-defining role for her. i think the fact that i was repelled by her so much meant the job she was doing was THAT effective. 😀 but for me, it was hard to get behind her because her outlook never really seemed to improve much, save for a couple of scenes. Ginger bothered me about as much because she refused to actually be with someone who she deserved, one of the only points Jasmine made that I could agree with.

      man, sometimes it’s fun being at odds with other reviewers on a movie. i love hearing analyses on both sides of the fence. i really wished i could be on the more positive side this time.

    • thanks, Zoe! I think I am in the minority with my opinion of it, but for me it just didn’t really ever reach a point where I was enjoying what was happening to the characters. the acting was stellar, though. i think that’s why I gave this a 3 instead of something even worse. 🙂

    • V That’s interesting you say that because I really haven’t seen anything but positive,glowing reviews for it. People are calling this a welcomed return to form for Allen, which I’d have to disagree with. The characters really repelled more than they enticed and with that said, it was difficult to appreciate what Allen was doing here. You should check it out, I’d like to see what you’ve got to say 🙂

  4. The cast was great and really kept this movie going, even when it hit its sloppiest moments. However, a mediocre Woody Allen flick is better than no Woody Allen flick, so I should just shut up and accept it for what it is. Good review Tom.

    • well said, man. well said. I guess that’ what we’ve gotten here is just a mediocre Allen flick (despite RT giving it a 90% for crying out loud) 🙂 Oh well. I could appreciate just how good Blanchett was here but she just wasn’t a nice person. at all. I guess others around her were a bit better, but from my POV everyone’s situations were shitty because the people themselves were pretty shitty.

    • Hehe!!! I wouldn’t start with this, then. As part of the main argument i attempted to make throughout this review, highly unlikable characters are a key ingredient in his films and this one is a shining example of that. something like To Rome With Love or Midnight in Paris might be better starting ground, if you in fact do have interest in getting into his movies. I was irritated by this one to say the least, particularly given the high praise its receiving. .

    • Hey thanks man, it definitely is. I am at a bit of a loss for words seeing just how well this has done critically but like I said, maybe I just wasn’t the right demographic for this.

    • hahah well I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but yeah this one just isn’t fun. I can appreciate the quality of acting on display here, given how much I disliked Cate Blanchett mostly. it should be noted that these trademarks did not bother me with To Rome With Love for whatever reason. i think that’s because there was more of a lighthearted, comedic tone there whereas this one was really at times quite dark and depressing. i say approach with caution, Nick. hopefully you’ll still enjoy it

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