Blue Jasmine -2013-


Directed by Woody Allen. 98 mins.

 Worth my time? Yes, but you can pass if you aren’t a fan of Allen and/or delirious women. (Seen at Arclight Hollywood)

 Let me start by personally recommending this film to Ryan Lattanzio, a buddy of mine from college and all-around swell film dude (if you don’t follow him on Twitter, you should).

Ryan: I know you well enough to say with near-certainty that Cate Blanchett’s performance is worth the price of your admission ticket.

 For the rest of the world, I’ll go into further detail.

 Woody Allen’s filmography is a bit like an elderly loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s. The afflicted may have occasional moments of clarity that remind you of everything that made him or her so wonderful in the past, but those are merely interruptions in the degeneration, not improvements. Yet you remain by his or her side, not only out of loyalty, but out of the delights that such moments provide.

 Such is the case with Blue Jasmine. If Midnight in Paris was Allen’s last hurrah in comedy (and judging from To Rome with Love, it probably will be), BJ is how his career in drama goes softly into that good night. It features all of the Allenisms that make you cringe – designer brand-name dropping, ruminations on fate and the starts, interior FUCKIN’ decoration, just to name a few. And, of course, the character age below which Allen can write convincing dialogue continues its ascent. I feel particularly bad for Alden Ehrenreich, cast in the role of Blanchett’s stepson. He’s a very good actor, but we’re the same age, and I have never heard anyone in my generation talk in such a contrived, wooden (or might I say Woody?)* way.

 With the possible exception of this one dude up in Berkeley who thought he was the second coming of Janis Joplin. But there’s always that exception which proves the rule.

 There are some interesting twists and turns in this fable of deception and self-deception, but the main draw is the cast. BJ has the best ensemble of any Allen film since Deconstructing Harry. Longtime Allen casting director Juliet Taylor saves the film by bringing on a bundle of established character actors (Sally Hawkins [she’s close enough to a character actor], Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg). Whether or not you like these players and their respective shticks, it’s nice to see so many people in an Allen film not attempt to imitate the director.

 Blanchett – the titular Jasmine – provides the best performance in an Allen picture in shit-I-don’t-know-how-long. Her character isn’t perfectly written (well, duh), but she does a near-excellent job with the role she has. The result is a believable woman whose slow-motion car crash of a life will make you laugh, but only when it hurts.

 *No, you might not.

 Aside: It’s fascinating finally to see Louis C.K. play a charismatic, sociable character.

 (Seen and originally written on 2013-07-26)