Cate starts Oscar talk
Let the Oscar talk begin. Cate Blanchett is so compellingly pathetic and sympathetic as a New York socialite on the verge of a breakdown in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” it’s difficult to imagine any other performance wresting the Academy Award from her. Just how in the heck Woody continues to write and direct films with such biting insight and intricate character analysis several decades into his storied career is a worthy subject for its own column.
But at 78 years young, the man hasn’t slowed down. Allen has released the equivalent of a movie a year for nearly 45 years, and as “Blue Jasmine” shows, the nebbishy writer-director still has a lot to say. Granted, “Blue Jasmine” is still a ‘typical’ Woody Allen film, tilting more toward the tragic-comedic style of his previous work while having little in common with the whimsical and most commercially successful film of his late period, the Oscar-nominated “Midnight in Paris.” If you loved that film your appreciation of his movies might have increased, but you still might find the despair on display in “Blue Jasmine” too overwhelming.
Blanchett’s Jasmine sees her life of luxury on Park Avenue fall apart when her wealthy, womanizing financier husband (Alec Baldwin, excellent again in a Woody film) is thrown in jail for fraud. The government confiscates everything, forcing Jasmine to move to San Francisco and live far below her station with her fellow adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins – Oscar worthy too). Aghast at the prospect of starting over from the bottom, Jasmine is critical of everything around her, including her sister’s humble apartment and choice of boyfriends. A master stroke by Woody is his casting of three well-known stand-up comedians. Bobby Cannavale is Ginger’s current guy, Louis C.K. a new beau who pops into Ginger’s life, and Andrew Dice Clay as Ginger’s ex-husband. Even without much big screen experience, the three are spot-on and help lift the occasionally shaky narrative at just the right moments. Peter Sarsgaard is also perfect as Jasmine’s new wealthy suitor who falls for her without knowing about her past.
But “Blue Jasmine” is clearly Cate Blanchett’s film, and rarely of late has a performance-driven vehicle been given such achingly poignant nuance by its lead character. Popping pills, chain-sipping Stoli martinis, and barely able to make it through each day, Jasmine could easily have been a self-pitying character that failed to provoke much audience empathy. While the story isn’t exactly resolved to anyone’s satisfaction, Woody’s script examines both the desperation and sticky revelations of relationship foibles.
A social anthropologist with roots in comedy (both dark and neurotic), Woody claims he really only makes films for himself. His relatively small but fervent fan base would respectfully disagree.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.