Blue Jasmine-attachment0

Blue Jasmine

Movie Information

The Story: A woman whose husband left her widowed, with nothing but the wreckage of his illegal financial empire — and a lot of high-toned notions — finds her life spinning out of control. The Lowdown: A rich, beautifully crafted and intricate film from Woody Allen that qualifies as essential viewing.
Score:

Genre: Drama with Bitter Comedy
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Canavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K.
Rated: PG-13

Woody Allen’s much-acclaimed new film, Blue Jasmine, deserves all its accolades. It’s certainly first-rate filmmaking and quite possibly the most intricately structured film Allen has ever made. (I think only 1981’s Stardust Memories gives it a run for its money in terms of structure.) Cate Blanchett’s performance as Jasmine is often breathtaking because of her uncanny ability to make an inherently — and increasingly — unlikable character strangely touching. The result is a film I like and admire, but don’t quite love — at least not yet. I may love it in time, because I like it a lot more today than I did yesterday when I saw it. It is quite possibly a movie that requires a little settling into and a second look.

That Blue Jasmine owes a debt to A Street Car Named Desire is undeniable. Not only did Cate Blanchett star in a highly regarded production of the play back in 2009 (a production Allen didn’t see), but the overall set-up of the film is similar. Its ruined titular heroine moves in with her working-class sister (Sally Hawkins) and essentially depends “on the kindness of strangers.” But don’t take the comparisons too far, because Blue Jasmine is its own beast, and Jasmine French (née Jeanette) is no Blanche DuBois. Jasmine is a remnant of the financial crisis — an overprivileged woman whose investment broker husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), got caught, went to prison and killed himself, leaving her adrift in a world she doesn’t understand and would prefer not to learn about. When she asks the cab driver who has brought her to her sister’s apartment in San Francisco, “Where am I exactly?” the question goes beyond geography.

Jasmine’s notions of pulling herself together are as touching in absurdity as they are appalling in arrogance. Her idea — which does not include getting a job — is that she’ll become an interior decorator, something she understands she can do online. But first, she has to take a class in how to use a computer. This is clearly not the fast track to self-sufficiency. Her brief tenure as a receptionist is even more disastrous, and she undermines, from the onset, a possible shot at reclaiming her old lifestyle. But this is only part of Allen’s game with here. He effortlessly moves in between Jasmine’s old life and this one, tracing the route that led her to her current state and raising questions at every turn as to just how much an unwitting victim of her husband’s illegal activities she was, and just how culpable she might be in the ruination of others (including her sister). The depth of Allen’s probing is ultimately shocking.

Working in widescreen (for only the third time in his career), Allen crafts a superb looking movie that truly moves. This is, in fact, one of the filmmaker’s most beautiful and cinematic films — something enhanced by the structure of the piece. Unlike some of Allen’s more serious films, Blue Jasmine keeps a strong sense of humor — albeit bitter humor — and retains a typically Allenesque jazz soundtrack. (The latter works beautifully because Allen clearly understands the sense of desperation at the core of the music.) As happens every time Allen makes a good movie, people have called this one “his best in years,” apparently oblivious to the fact that they said the same thing two years ago. I think it’s very good and very probably great, but I’m not getting on that particular bandwagon. Plus, I have some qualms about the extended subplot with Jasmine’s sister and another man (Louis C.K.), but all in all, this is must-see filmmaking from one of our best directors. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.

Playing at Carolina Cinemas

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

56 thoughts on “Blue Jasmine

  1. Me

    It sounds like this might be his first foray into a working man’s social climate, instead of his usual intellectual characters. It also sounds like this film might be a little behind the times.

    Im wondering what you thought of Andrew Dice Clay, i was surprised to discover that he had actually done some dramatic acting before this.

  2. Ken Hanke

    I’m not even going to guess why the film might be a little behind the times. Are you saying that anything that happened earlier than last week is irrelevant?

    As a rule, I abominate Andrew Dice Clay. I find him obnoxious, crude, and spectacularly unfunny. I liked him in this. It helped that he wasn’t trying to be funny.

  3. Me

    What, no it sounds like the film might be sort of about the recession, which i know isn’t behind us but, the thick of it seemed to be between 2008 to 2011.

  4. Me

    I take that back Small Time Crooks was “working class”, but this looks like more of a drama than that was.

  5. Ken Hanke

    What, no it sounds like the film might be sort of about the recession, which i know isn’t behind us but, the thick of it seemed to be between 2008 to 2011.

    Well, it’s a movie, you know, not an episode of 60 Minutes.

  6. Justin Souther

    It also sounds like this film might be a little behind the times.

    You literally just posted about Newsroom.

  7. Dionysis

    Anything with Cate Blanchett in it has some appeal to me.

    As for Andrew Dice Clay, while I have never found him funny, I don’t have a big problem with him since my first exposure to him was in a dramatic role as a recurring character in the old Michael Mann late 80s television series ‘Crime Story’. He was quite good in that.

  8. Me

    Newsroom is structured that way on purpose though, everybody hate watches that show, but the last couple of episodes it’s come into its own. It’s been less concerned with world events.

  9. Big Al

    When the film ended, the guy behind me muttered “Sonuva B%$@#. Now I want someone to shoot me.” I think he felt the ending was too open and unresolved. I personally felt that Jasmine was an nonredeemable head-case and that the story was more about how she affected the lives of the people she comes in contact with.

    As for the “behind-the-times” discussion, the recession was not a factor in the story line. Jasmine and Hal’s financial woes stemmed from his unethical schemes, not from a slow economy, and cons occur without regard to economic prosperity.

    More Sally Hawkins! Only without the American accent, please. Dice was good too. I agree with you that has evolved into a more tolerable dramatic actor than shock comedian.

  10. Bob Voorhees

    No, no.no. Not a good movie (even).
    One problem is that Allen is now in his dotage and has done so much that is either good or excellent that he’s a bit of a cultural icon now. Surely, we expect a lot from him.
    Here’s a challenge: Go to see “Jasmine” and watch the first 30 mi8nutes or so (say, up to the point that Jasmine decides that she might become a good interior decorator — what a brilliant epiphany!!) Now, close your eyes or walk out into the hall for 5 minutes (you’ll miss very ;ittle) and ask yourself this question: Do I really care about any of these characters? If they were real, would I want to get to know any of them better?
    If so, my bad.
    If not, you may, like me, remember that you’re reading a really good book.
    OK, OK I admit that I really don’t much care for some of these people. I agree with The Crankster about Dice Clay (what a boor!). I have read that Blanchet was type cast, as she reportedly is, in reality, arrogant. And Baldwin? I’d trade him for a White Castle hamburger. Allen? I think he’s getting a bit self-indulgent. Maybe a Woody Allen movie without Woodie in it inevitably ends up (like this one) as a first class TV melodramma.
    Now, I recognize that comments like the above do not constitute genuine film criticism, but I’m not unhappy that I left. He’s not an icon for me any more. It needs to be genuinely good, not just “a Woody”.

  11. Ken Hanke

    If you left after 30 minutes, you really can’t effectively judge the entire movie.

  12. Ken Hanke

    As for the “behind-the-times” discussion, the recession was not a factor in the story line. Jasmine and Hal’s financial woes stemmed from his unethical schemes, not from a slow economy

    True enough, but this kind of unethical scheme does have some impact on helping to create the recession.

  13. Edwin Arnaudin

    Do I really care about any of these characters? If they were real, would I want to get to know any of them better?

    For me, Woody’s greatest accomplishment here is that despite his characters’ unlikable nature, I found myself wanting Jasmine and Ginger to succeed…or at least pull out of their respective tailspins.

    I’m not unhappy that I left.

    …which means you didn’t get to experience the above revelation…which means you didn’t actually see the film.

    He’s not an icon for me any more.

    Did you not like Midnight In Paris or To Rome With Love? Or Whatever Works, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Scoop, or Match Point? I think he’s on a pretty good run.

  14. Edwin Arnaudin

    I know…but I like it. Glad to see you’re pro-Whatever Works, which I think is unfairly slighted. I remember people knocking it for being a script Allen wrote in the ’70s for Zero Mostel, which was the same era for which these same folks were pining.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Whatever Works was on my Ten Best list that year. There were a couple moments where I bemoaned that it wasn’t Mostel, but that’s a minor point. I may well prefer it to everything that’s come since.

  16. Big Al

    “…this kind of unethical scheme does have some impact on helping to create the recession.”

    BUT this kind of con happens even when there is NO recession, hence my point that this film was NOT DATED. This story could have happened at any time in history and still be just as relevant.

    Onto the next thread-line: I did not think this was one of Allen’s best, nowhere near the brilliance of “Midnight in Paris”, but certainly better than last year’s “To Rome with Love”, which put me to sleep.

    I have mixed feelings on “Whatever Works”. It was worth the cost of a ticket, but was otherwise unremarkable. The most memorable thing I got out of it was that big wooden prop in Larry David’s apartment (mailboxes, Pharmacy cabinet, something from a drugstore..?) of which I kept saying to myself “IwantIt-IwantIt-IwantIt”.

  17. Big Al

    BV:”Now, close your eyes or walk out into the hall for 5 minutes (you’ll miss very little) and ask yourself this question: Do I really care about any of these characters?”

    I absolutely disagree. I found myself so hating Bobby Cannavales’ character and rooting for Sally Hawkins and Louis CK that when the love triangle resolved, not only was I stunned at the outcome, I was equally stunned at how convincingly Allen made me BELIEVE that it was the correct one. This was a point of brilliance in an otherwise only better-than-average film.

  18. Edwin Arnaudin

    Being a big Curb Your Enthusiasm fan, I thought Larry David was an excellent Allen stand-in. (I’d love to see them work together again.)

    I also finally caught up with Oedipus Wrecks from New York Stories a few weeks ago and was delighted to see a half-afro’d David as the stage manager during the magic show.

  19. Ken Hanke

    BUT this kind of con happens even when there is NO recession, hence my point that this film was NOT DATED. This story could have happened at any time in history and still be just as relevant.

    My whole problem is with the idea that a movie’s relevance exists only in how closely it reflects current events. I find that ridiculous. My point in mentioning that there is a connection is to point out that the fall-out of the things that helped to fuel the recession is still with us.

  20. Xanadon't

    I may well prefer it to everything that’s come since.

    Really?! Maybe I need to give it another go.

  21. Ken Hanke

    Well, don’t do anything drastic. It’s really so much not like You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love, or this one that comparisons are tricky. But I know I’ve watched it more.

  22. Ken Hanke

    Bits in Radio Days and Oedipus Wrecks aren’t really the same thing.

  23. Me

    True, im looking more forward to the Louie CK and Woody Allen idea they have been thinking about doing.

  24. Bob Voorhees

    Ken — You may be right about leaving early. Perhaps Allen has earned the right to ask people to stay on past the point when they’re bored. But a book or a movie should have some form of “grabber” (methinks), at least in the first thirty minites. I have tried reading David Baldacci and James Patterson — left both those books before 30 minutes. I have left several books and movies 30-50 pages or minutes into them (I ain’t a snob –so,sure, Joyce’s “Ulysses” was one). I think a good writer or filmmaker should overtly attempt to “pull you in” before then. If not, it seems legit to say “by-by” (unless your life is so banal and boring itself that you need to kill the time).

  25. Ken Hanke

    You can, of course, leave a movie or put down a book at any time. No laws about it. But as someone who is paid to review films, I really haven’t that luxury. I don’t think anyone would take what I said very seriously for long if I did just say that I bailed after 30 minutes. At the same time, why would I be sold or not sold on the quality of a 100 minute movie by hearing an assessment that didn’t factor in the other 70 minutes? Then again, what bores you may not bore everyone — whether or not their lives are so banal and boring.

  26. Edwin Arnaudin

    Edwin, Woody and Larry have worked together about 3 or 4 times already.

    Since Whatever Works? The future, Mr. Me. The future!

  27. Bob Voorhees

    KH Interesting response to my PS. Of course, I wasn’t aiming my initial comments at YOU personally, though you seem to have read them this way. Of course, YOU have to watch the whole movie, no matter what. I read your reviews and other reviews and I wonder what percentage of the garbage that passes for film in this culture you WOULD LIKE to leave early if you could. Of course, I was writing about myself and understand that others might not be bored by this kind of TV sitcom movie. I just think that as Grisham and Patterson write far too much (maybe compulsively), so Allen puts out too many films and some of them, perhaps, are bound to suffer from writer’s block.

  28. Ken Hanke

    Well, I can only respond from a personal standpoint. My broader point is that an opinion from someone who only watched part of the movie is simply not persuasive. It’s an individual thing, of course, but there have been quite a few films that I found impossible to judge in any meaningful way until the end. Comparing it to reading really doesn’t strike me as reasonable. Not too many movies require an investment of more than a couple hours. Most novels require a much greater investment of time.

    For that matter, I question the need to implicitly denigrate those who liked the film by referring to it as a “TV sitcom movie,” especially since it’s an ill-chosen comparison for all kinds of reasons. (I suspect you wouldn’t agree with some of those reasons, since they are grounded in filmmaking aspects, and your approach at least appears to be more literary than cinematic. But stylistically, this is unrelated to the sitcom.)

    As for the question of what a critic — specifically what I — would like to have walked out on…well, it’s mostly limited to movies I wouldn’t have gone to see as a matter of choice. And quite honestly some of those have turned out to be pleasant surprises. Don’t get absurd and think something like The Smurfs 2 qualifies. Some things are pretty obviously going to be bad, but there have been a more than reasonable number of worthwhile discoveries along the way. In the case of a Woody Allen picture, I would have seen it by choice — and I would have stuck it out to the end.

  29. Me

    I really liked the clashes, and the way they used the flash backs to cut between her talking to herself, even if I’m not sure that’s a symptom of someone in her condition.

    The casting was great, it makes sense now. I almost felt like for the first act, at least that Woody was trying his hand at cringe humor. Every time Auggie was on screen I was just waiting for him to say something inappropriate. So, even if he didn’t there was that potential for uncomfortable moments.

    With the talk of Woody going back to stand up, and his new found friendship with today’s comedians I hope he explores more of today’s style comedy like cringe and uncomfortable humor.

  30. Ken Hanke

    his new found friendship with today’s comedians

    I can only guess you mean Louis C.K., since Andrew Dice Clay is hardly one of “today’s comedians.”

    I hope he explores more of today’s style comedy like cringe and uncomfortable humor.

    Oh, yes, Woody Allen returns to stand-up with comedy that isn’t funny. Yeah, that’ll pack ‘em in.

  31. Ken Hanke

    Did you know? Time travel movies are banned in China.

    Did you know there is no proper name for the back of the knees?

  32. Me

    I think he has enough money, that he doesn’t need to “pack em in”, and can evolve in his craft as a comedian and not worry about that kind of thing.

  33. Ken Hanke

    Your hipper-than-thou ideas of “evolving” and “craft” are almost as tedious as they are predictable.

  34. Me

    I like being predictable, nothing spontaneous, you know. Surprise parties, hate it, people dropping by, hate it, interventions, hate”em.

    Evolving as an artist is probably anything but hip, it risks falling out of favor with critics and fans.

  35. Ken Hanke

    Surprise parties, hate it, people dropping by, hate it,

    I’m surprised you have to worry about those.

    Evolving as an artist is probably anything but hip, it risks falling out of favor with critics and fans.

    Going from being Woody Allen to Louis C.K. is the antithesis of evolving.

  36. Jeremy Dylan

    This is Allen’s best film in years!

    I kid, but technically I’m serious because I liked this more than TO ROME WITH LOVE.

    I was a little apprehensive that this might be a “serious” drama, but I relieved that it kept up a strain of dark humor throughout, which made it more biting than it would have been otherwise.

  37. Ken Hanke

    I kid, but technically I’m serious because I liked this more than TO ROME WITH LOVE.

    Wouldn’t that make it “Allen’s best movie in a year?” or at least “Allen’s best movie since Midnight in Paris“?

  38. Jeremy Dylan

    Well, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was two years ago, technically I’m still correct.

  39. Jeremy Dylan

    How do you think a double bill of this and YOUNG ADULT would play, Ken?

  40. Ken Hanke

    Well, I see the connection, but I don’t think they’d be all that happy together.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.