Blue Jasmine (Movie Review)

All right Woody, that’s close enough.

So, as you all may know, I’m still working through my backlog of Oscar reviews that I didn’t get around to finishing before the actual ceremony and have been procrastinating about ever since. Well, the end is in sight. After finishing Blue Jasmine today, I will only need to watch Frozen, Her, Philomena and um, The Great Beauty.

Yeah, about that last one…

I actually did start watching The Great Beauty yesterday, and I was fully prepared to see it through till the end… Until I looked at my alarm clock and realized that it was three in the morning, and I still had an hour to go of watching some old Italian guy moping around Rome. I decided to remove The Great Beauty from my Oscar queue, because life is just too damn short. Oh boy, do I ever love shirking responsibility!

Anyways, the following movie is the latest one from Woody Allen,who enjoyed a good year in 2013, which entailed this movie becoming a critical and commercial success, being honoured with the prestigious Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes, and definitely not becoming embroiled in a sexual assault scandal with his daughter in law.

Which is odd, because it’s not like the guy’s a total weirdo or anything.

Anyways, this movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, netting Cate Blanchett the Oscar for best actress. However, some people with a little bit too much time on their hands were unhappy with it’s exclusion from the Best Picture nominees list in 2013. Were they right to think this? Well, I guess it mounts a better case for inclusion than Wolf of Wall Street , but then again, fucking August: Osage County mounted a better case than Wolf of Wall Street. And I wanted every character in that movie to die a slow, painful death!

  Blue Jasmine 

Directed by: Woody Allen

Produced by: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson

Written by: Woody Allen

Genre: Drama

Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard,  Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg

Oscar nominations (Wins in Bold): Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Sally Hawkins), Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen)

Plot: Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett) has it all. Despite being a college dropout (Normally a risky venture for anybody not named Mark Zuckerberg), she has lucked out in marrying Hal Francis (Alec Baldwin), an extremely wealthy New York businessman and lives with him and her Harvard-bound step-son (Alden Ehrenreich) in a colossal house in Brooklyn. Everything seems to be going really well for her until Hal turns out to be a fraudster, is incarcerated and commits suicide.

Which seems kinda like  overkill when you realize that his prison cell probably looked like this.

Her life in tatters, Jasmine suffers a nervous breakdown and decides to move from New York to her sisters’ apartment in San Francisco. Speaking of her lower-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) were two of the people who lost everything when Hal’s business ventures blew up in his face. Jasmine’s moving in has forced Ginger to postpone her marriage to Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a mildly dimwitted, if dedicated, working class auto mechanic, which leads to tension between Chili and Jasmine, as Jasmine tries to figure out what exactly she’s going to do with herself.

Any discussion about the good parts of this movie has to begin and end with the cast, especially the leading lady, Cate Blanchett, who is fantastic in the role of Jasmine Francis. In lesser hands, the character would’ve been a total disaster, but it is a credit to Blanchett and Woody Allen that they were able to develop a character that, while she may not amount to much more than a narcissistic bitch, really, is still very sympathetic and who can make the audience feel bad for her, even when the poor situations she finds herself in are more her doing than anybody else. I know that, before seeing this movie, I had rooted for Sandra Bullock to win Best Actress, but I see know that I know nothing about anything. Cate Blanchett is fucking amazing.

Oscar nominated supporting actress is also very good as Ginger, who is another interesting character, who is just trying to get on with her life and trying to raise her kids with as little drama as possible. I didn’t feel that her character was quite as deep as Jasmine, but I enjoyed following her arc, and she kept me guessing, so good for her. Bobby Cannavale is also great as Ginger’s fiancee, Chili. Chili could have easily been written as a complete and total douche, because, well, just look at the guy.

“How youze doin’?”

But, thankfully, Cannavale adds another layer to the character, making him, and I realize that I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, a flawed, yet sympathetic character that the audience can get behind. Sure, he’s loud, kinda boisterous and a bit of a dummy, but he also seems like a sweet guy who, deep down, really loves Ginger, even if he can be a bit of a loser.

Alec Baldwin knows how to play a slimy douche like he knows the back of his hand, and he delivers here. As for Clay, C.K., and Sarsgaar, they all do very well in their respective roles, but it’s very clear that the sole purpose for their characters is to move the plot along so that we can see more of Cate Blanchett being crazy. I suppose I can’t complain too mmuch about that, but I can’t help feeling like some serious talent was wasted here, especially in the case of Louis C.K., the funniest man alive, who damn near steals the show every time he appears.

I’m not very sure how I feel about Woody Allen personally, but speaking purely from a cinematic viewpoint, he did a damn fine job writing this script. The interactions feel real and are smartly written, and when he wants his comedic side to rear its neurotic head, he does so very well. The only problem with that is that it can occasionally feel like the movie doesn’t really know where it wants to be in terms of tone. At times, it can feel like a dark comedy that occasionally satirizes the absurdities of yuppie-dom, but other times, it can feel like it’s more of a character study, and I, personally, would have liked to see a little more of the former, but hey, I’m also the guy who gave Man of Steel a 7.5/10, so fuck me, right?

What nominations/wins did it deserve? 

  • Best Actress (Blanchett): Now that I’ve actually seen this movie, I can say for certain that Cate Blachett blew the other candidates out of the water.
  • Best Supporting Actress (Hawkins): Don’t get me wrong, Sally Hawkins was great, but she had no hope of beating out Lupita Nyong’o or Jennifer Lawrence.
  • Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen): Yes to the nod, no to the win.

Overall: Sure, it’s got some flaws, but Blue Jasmine  is a smart, occasionally funny look at a life gone astray that demands your respect even if the writer/director doesn’t, really.

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

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