By Gary Murray
Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Andrew Dice Clay and Sally Hawkins
Written and directed by Woody Allen
Running time 98 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
A Woody Allen seems to come along every summer. Some are just brilliant and some are painstakingly dull but all seem to have something of interest. His latest to grace the screens of the art house cinema is Blue Jasmine.
The story is told in Medius Rea, or the middle of things. When we first meet Jasmine, she is on a plane telling her tale to another passenger. When they get off the plane, we find out that the passenger was shocked by Jasmine and her rambling utterances.
Jasmine is changing coasts and moving in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), a divorced woman who is struggling to make ends meet and raise her kids. Both women were adopted and Jasmine took a much different path than Ginger. Where Ginger tends to be of lower class, Jasmine was a part of high society.
Through a series of flash backs peppered in the narrative, we find Jasmine’s story. Her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was an investment maverick, doing international deals. Jasmine would be the co-signer on deals but paid more attention to charity luncheons than business.
The truth is that Hal is a crooked man running schemes ala Bernie Madoff. The Ponzi Scheme Empire collapses around him. Jasmine lives in a world that is a lie and seems to be clueless about her life and what people truly think of her…
Ginger’s story is much the opposite. In her back story, she was married to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). They had won some money in the lottery and Hal convinces Augie to invest in his company. The two lose it all. Augie is still bitter about it but Ginger has somehow moved on and forgives Jasmine. She is a go along to get along type of woman.
The current story is of Jasmine trying to discover a new life in middle age. She has to do something she has not really done before—get a job. She struggles with all peccadilloes of the daily grind. Eventually she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) a man on the way up in the world. Jasmine spins a web of lies to impress the man.
Blue Jasmine is of another house of cards that collapses. Jasmine is a crazy woman and we see her emotional and physiological breakdown. It is also about family and forgiveness.
The problem with Blue Jasmine is with the characters. Basically, there is not a single likeable individual on the screen within the major roles. And that may be the point of the film. It is of the narcissism that the 21st century has generated through society. When we get to the great surprising reveal at the end, it does not come as much of a surprise. With characters as self-centered as these, the outcome of their lives is inevitable.
Cate Blanchett gives the performance of her career with Blue Jasmine. She is a clueless and vain individual who never sees the irony that is her life. Her slow spiral down the rabbit hole is a study in self-centeredness that should get many praises by the Academy. It is a brilliant character study done by an actress at the peak of her career.
Alec Baldwin basically plays his Alec Baldwin character with little depth and even less sympathies. Just about any actor could have played this leech. The biggest let down was with Sally Hawkins. She is usually a brilliant performer giving it her all but with the character of Ginger, she just never finds the right emotional beat. I expected more from her.
In the secondary characters, Andrew Dice Clay is a stunning stand out. The comic is given a chance to play a dramatic role and does so with a roguish charm. As Augie, the estranged husband of Ginger, he gives a pathos laden performance that should give him a second life as a character actor.
The same can be said of the reading of Louis C.K. Though he has a very small part, he gives a grand reading as yet another self-centered individual. One gets the feeling that he is the younger generation of a character that Woody would write for himself.
Blue Jasmine will probably get a few Oscar nods but it is definitely a mixed bag of a flick. Some of the individual acting jobs are some of the best of 2013 but Woody Allen never found a heart in the film. It is much more of a character study of a failing woman than a motion picture.