By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics)
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.
Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tammy Blanchard, Max Casella, Alden Ehrenreich.
Wriiten and Directed by Woody Allen.
Woody Allen seems to have found a new groove. He sort of fell off the movie radar after Mighty Aphrodite (1995), and even though he continued making films almost every year, none of them really caught on with critics or audiences until 2010's Midnight in Paris. Blue Jasmine is his latest project, starring Cate Blanchett as a narcissistic socialite down on her luck as she plunges into madness.
Blanchett plays Jasmine, as she arrives in San Francisco to reunite with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). The rest of the film covers Jasmine's current events as she tries to adjust to living in a small apartment, while flashing back to her days in New York as the wife of Hal (Alec Baldwin), a wealthy investor with a flair for shady deals. Although Ginger is not as refined as her sister, she tries to help out by setting Jasmine up on dates and finding a job. Jasmine clashes with her sister's boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), whose character bears a younger, but strong resemblance to Ginger's ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), seen in many of Jasmine's flashbacks.
As Jasmine struggles to find her way, she slips deeper into madness, and is often seen talking to the people she sees in flashbacks, creating the vision of someone talking to themselves. Jasmine seems to turn things around when she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a wealthy diplomat who believes her lies about being a successful interior designer. Jasmine's world comes crashing down again as she tries to reunite with her estranged stepson Danny (Alden Ehrenreich), and is caught in her lie to Dwight by a man from her past.
While Woody Allen has been known to make a few dramas over the years, not many of them have drawn favorable attention from critics or audiences. Blue Jasmine might break that pattern, since it's a gut-wrenching story of one woman's spiral into madness.
I can't say enough about Blanchett's powerful performance as Jasmine. It's one of those roles that will more than likely launch her back into “best actress” consideration during the upcoming awards season. It's one of her best performances, and worthy of any such consideration. One acting surprise in Blue Jasmine comes from Andrew Dice Clay, who does and excellent job playing a bitter, broken man and victim to Hal's questionable investment schemes.
Blue Jasmine isn't Woody Allen's best film, but it's a dramatic departure and something fresh from the famed auteur. It's also good to see Woody get out of Manhattan once in a while. First Paris, then Rome and now San Francisco. The world is getting larger for Woody, and certainly darker if he keeps making notable dramas like Blue Jasmine.