Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

February 6, 2014

'Blue Jasmine' bolstered by strong performances

By Ryan Maddux and Andy Stuckey Daily News
Greensburg Daily News

---- — Writer/director Woody Allen’s latest film is the drama, Blue Jasmine (PG-13).

Cate Blanchett stars as down-on-her-luck Manhattan socialite whose life is turned upside down when her husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested in a Bernie Madoff-type scam. With no other options, Blanchett’s Jasmine heads to San Francisco to live with her free-spirited sister (Sally Hawkins). Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard costar in the film.

Andy: Blue Jasmine is, staggeringly, the 73rd film Woody Allen has worked on. While it is hard to put his personal life totally aside, there is no question that the quantity and quality of Allen’s films make him one of the pillars of American cinema. It is also remarkable that he is able to continue making films so regularly without all of them seeming the same. Blue Jasmine is no exception, as we are forced to deal with some of the implications of the financial crises, class relations, and who bears responsibility for some of the things that happened to our economy in the last decade.

Ryan: More of a drama than a typical comedy or dramedy from Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine is at times a thorny movie to watch – not because of the melodrama or scenes of intense emotional dialogue. More to the point, it’s an intricate film to watch because one is never quite sure how to feel about the lead character.

At times, one feels pity (her husband repeatedly cheated on her) and compassion (she’s lost her home and livelihood) for Jasmine in the situation she now finds herself in. But — and this is a big but — she’s not a (very) likable character. She has no awareness for how the people around her perceive her, and she lacks any kind of self-awareness at all.

Ultimately it’s a testament to Allen’s script and direction in making a seemingly uninteresting character interesting. At the end of the day, I’m not head over heels in love with Blue Jasmine. I certainly found it less enjoyable than his last Oscar nominated fare, Midnight in Paris, but it’s still a noteworthy film in Allen’s canon.

Andy: Blue Jasmine is a little slow at times, and sometimes the characters make choices that make them hard to watch, but the performances are strong across the board. Blanchette is very impressive, carrying the movie in spite of being a highly unlikable character.

She was earlier pegged as the Oscar favorite, which is hard to argue. We see the type of self-deception her character indulges in early in the film, only to see that crumble as she becomes more and more desperate. It is a career-defining role, and Blanchette executes a career-defining performance.

Ryan: Blanchett’s Oscar nomination for best Lead Actress is much deserved. In a movie with good performances (including Andrew Dice Clay’s — never thought I would say that in a review) Blanchett is clearly the MVP. She’s basically a female version of the Woody Allen neurotic screen persona.

But she’s very convincing playing a character that people can still relate to, even though many of us do not have friends who are wealthy New York City socialites.

This movie required a strong lead performance and Blanchett hit it out of the park.

Blue Jasmine is an interesting and entertaining film that, in spite of some slow moments, features some of the best performances of 2013.

Final grade: B.