Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Following films made in the UK, Spain, France and Italy, Woody Allen not only returns to his homeland for this much lauded movie, he also returns to San Francisco for the first time since his starring role in 1972's Play It Again, Sam.

He's behind the camera here of course allowing a talented cast to shine, perhaps a little more than the material actually deserves as many have pointed out. As I type, Cate Blanchett is now the proud owner of a Best Actress Oscar for her brilliant multi layered performance here. It's justice that she bagged the statuette as it's a truly magnetic performance of a  brittle narcissist's gradual breakdown which sees her possess every single frame with the upmost dedication and determination. But it's not just a one woman show and she's ably supported by the wonderful Sally Hawkins as her blue collar sister, who earned a BAFTA nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Better luck next time Sally - and hopefully perhaps back with Mike Leigh after your forthcoming projects which seem to range from the sublime (a Paddington Bear movie) to the ridiculous (Godzilla) - but for now, I just feel happy she secured a role in a decent Woody movie after the universal flop that was his ill advised London venture Cassandra's Dream. Also on hand are Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, comedian Louis CK and Boardwalk Empire stars Michael Stuhlbarg and Bobby Cannavale (it's a relief to see him play someone who isn't evil after his terrifying turn as Gyp Rosetti) 

As many regular readers may know, I am a fan of Woody Allen movies however, like so many of us admirers of his work out there, I don't feel he's really given us anything of great merit for sometime. Match Point was good and, when taken at face value, quite startlingly bold and different. Meanwhile Midnight in Paris gained amazing acclaim yet oddly it left me cold on my one viewing of it, finding it a little smug and all too similar to the 1990's BBC sitcom Goodnight, Sweetheart. It's funny because Blue Jasmine also shares a link to near forgotten 90s Britcoms; on paper its story of a society lady who finds her husband cheated her of all her money and is forced to move down the social ladder to return to her family is essentially the same as John Sullivan's 1991 recession comedy Sitting Pretty - and I doubt there's many out there who remember that one! This is a good film, but it's not a great film, and it's not a return to form for Woody. I've long ago come to the conclusion that Woody will occasionally produce the odd diamond (or something that looks like a diamond) in the rough at maybe every other or every third movie, but he'll never 'return to form'. It's just too much of us to ask from a 78 year old artist with an increasingly difficult private life threatening to bleed out into his public life and work. What Blue Jasmine is, and why I think  it has gained the acclaim it has - beyond the justified praise for Blanchett's performance - is a culturally resonant film for the here and now, dealing as it does with the global recession and the fall out and fall from grace many have endured in light of the bankers and the Madoff scams. It's a film that speaks to today's audience on some level and maybe, in years to come, it will serve as a time capsule for what it was like post 2010.

In conclusion, Blue Jasmine is a good film but specifically it's a good film for its leading actress.

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