Magazine article Screen International

Blue Jasmine

Magazine article Screen International

Blue Jasmine

Article excerpt

Dir: Woody Allen. US. 2013. 98mins

The comedown of a haughty socialite provides the basis for Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, an examination of existential crisis and self-delusion that is nimble, glancingly funny and yet also marked by sly, unstressed depths. Anchored by a superlative, wound-up turn by Cate Blanchett that will surely generate some awards consideration talk, the film exhibits perceptive dramatic insight with only a leavening pinch of melodramatic inclination, highlighting the gravitational pull of the love one thinks they deserve.

Blanchett's performance is mesmerising, and in some ways a flipside presentation of the same suffocating neediness and loneliness Lesley Manville channeled in Mike Leigh's Another Year.

Blue Jasmine marks the sixth collaboration between Allen and Sony Pictures Classics, and the fifth in a row for the distributor and prolific writer-director. Buoyed to some degree by their overseas settings, 2011's Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris did $150 million worldwide, while last year's To Rome With Love pulled in $73 million cumulatively. If the Stateside setting, unsympathetic title character and slightly heavier dramatic shadings of Blue Jasmine will likely tamp down its earning potential compared to those two offerings, the film should still connect heartily with adult arthouse audiences.

As the wife of New York businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), Jasmine (Blanchett) enjoys the rarefied life of a one-percenter. When her husband's massive financial fraud unravels and lands him in prison, however, Jasmine finds herself flirting with a nervous breakdown. Still as self-involved as ever, she heads to San Francisco, where her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) lives a decidedly more downscale lifestyle.

Ginger's relationship with her first husband, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), suffered with the financial hit they took as a result of trusting Hal with an important investment, and her new boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale), quickly develops a disdain for Jasmine in line with Augie's. While Ginger's susceptibility and general sweet-naturedness preclude her from cutting her sister out of her life, she pushes Jasmine -- mortified at the thought of work -- into taking a job as a receptionist at a dentist's office, under Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg). Later, a pair of new relationships blooms; Jasmine snags rakish diplomat Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), while Ginger hooks up with sound engineer Al (Louis C.K.). Lies, however, make these precarious bonds.

The more conventional and feel-good take on this material would be one of sisterly reconnection and discovery via these various, intertwined stories of romantic bloom and withering, but Allen elides laborious whimsy and instead focuses on notions of reinvention (success is questionable) and romantic settling, via an engaging split structure that alternates between Jasmine's lavish past and brought-low present. …

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