BLUE JASMINE

Woody Allen must really know about depression. He sure as shit knows how to make his audiences depressed, even while keeping them wildly entertained. That’s the feeling I got as I watched BLUE JASMINE. Cate Blanchett is Jasmine (or is it Jeannette, we never clearly find out). Her husband (Alec Baldwin) is a more handsome Bernie Madoff. He’s robbed from the rich and poor and went to prison, then hanged himself. Jasmine is a complete mess. But is it from all that’s befallen her? She’s lost everything and has to move to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Or is it because of some other reason which I won’t reveal because it would spoil a twist in the plot. Jasmine is neurotic in an Allen-esque way, but she’s also obviously had a psychotic break. Blanchett’s performance makes this movie. She is fabulous and even appears to have ingested and repurposed some of Allen’s mannerisms. the supporting cast is equally good, special props to Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Canavale and Hawkins. But the problem with this movie is that I don’t really care about any of them. That’s a problem in a lot of Woody Allen’s movies. Everyone is so self-involved that they don’t let the audience in. That said, this is definitely one to watch for Allen’s smart dialogue and Blanchett’s acting chops. — Alan Yudman

A character study in which not much happens, complicated by the dislikable anti-heroine, Jasmine (or Jeannette, her actual name). Jasmine was a spoiled rich bitch when she was up and becomes a self-entitled poor bitch after her Madoff-like husband’s downfall. In “happier” times, she shows no enjoyment of her good fortune and standing among the New York elite; as a near-destitute castoff, she continues to behave badly and seems oblivious when others refuse to take her shit. The overall situation is a nod to A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, but the fragility and vulnerability — the pathos — of Blanche DuBois is not a part of Cate Blanchett’s quite actress-y performance. She’s working hard to make you not care what happens to her, and that leaves the rest of the cast to sympathize with. And it is with them that the movie is most successful. Woody Allen is not a director associated with blue-collar, common man and woman types, but he gets great stuff out of Andrew Dice Clay (especially) and Bobby Cannavale and Sally Hawkins and several others who inhabit working-class San Francisco. People have been urging Woody to venture outside of his Upper East Side comfort zone, and until now that’s mostly meant other well-heeled settings like Paris and London. But scenes like one between Clay and Hawkins that bring the playful if edgy familiarity of people who were once married and still have affection for each other felt fresh to me, in a way that that the wooden encounters between Blanchett and an uninspired Alec Baldwin did not. The former’s lives are messy; they can’t be papered over with the trappings of wealth. And Allen feels right at home with them. — Jeff Schultz

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