Blue Jasmine (2013) (PG-13)

It's easy to underestimate the power of films that just use the bare minimum of movie making. In a year filled with huge budgets and fantastic special effects, looking at Woody Allen's new movie, "Blue Jasmine" carries the shock of watching a 20s silent film. Just in the last few weeks we had "Elysium" and even "At World's End" which relied heavily on special effects for their end goal.
But in "Blue Jasmine" besides the poorly animated CGI plane that opens the film, nothing that I could spot was anything other than real people in real sets. There is no need for stunts and explosives; yet here we have Cate Blanchett giving an incredible performance in one of the year's best films.
Jasmine is a woman who knows what it's like to get the rug yanked out from under her. At the beginning of the movie (after the plane is seen), she is pouring out her life to the woman sitting next to her on the ride to San Francisco. When the plane lands, we see the two women walking to baggage claim—up and down stairs and across terminals. All this time, Jasmine is running her mouth about every detail of her life: she was married to a man named Hal (Alec Baldwin) who was older than her but swept her off her feet. On her first encounter with Hal (open the pod bay doors), Jasmine remembers the song "Blue Moon" playing in the background. She was still in college, studying to be an anthropologist; but she was enchanted by the suave was a fairy tale romance.
But then, the luggage comes and the ladies part ways.
If Woody Allen has taught us anything in his years of movie making, it's that rarely do the expected happy endings really occur. Look at "Annie Hall" for example—the only Allen picture to win Best Picture. It's hilarious and quirky...but also quite realistic in its portrayal of two lovers who gradually drift apart.
"Match Point" is another great example of Allen's dark side—heck, even "Manhattan" is bleak.
Somehow Allen manages to top himself with "Blue Jasmine"—it's deeply fascinating, engrossing, and very dark.
At the peak of her wealth (and I mean, wealth!) Jasmine had it all—the picture perfect family. She had an adopted son, a loving husband, the gorgeous house(s), and all the designer clothes that money could buy. I don't think the movie intends to dissect the lives of the rich and opulent—instead, it is just about a woman whose way of living has been cut in half.
With no money to her name, Jasmine is force to move in with her sister and her two nephews. This is quite a culture shock—from high society to a a cramped room in the somewhat run-down part of town.
Jasmine's sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) works bagging groceries at a local store. Everyone makes it clear that Jasmine is only staying until she can get her feet back on the ground.
Wanting to do something with the rest of her life and trying to bury the past, Jasmine seeks employment. It's a shame that she's such a snob—she finds working as a dentist's receptionist to be demeaning (the dentist's advances on her don't help her deteriorating situation).
The stress, the lack of money, the desire for better living—they all drive Jasmine to the verge of a breakdown.
We know through dialogue that Jasmine was once found of the side of the road, babbling to herself.
So we enter her mind for some parts of the movie; going back to see her life as a rich, clueless wife.
Flashbacks intermingle with Jasmine's life in San Francisco. It's clear to everyone that she still pines for her luxury.
Growingly unstable, Jasmine becomes a pill-popper and an alcoholic...she is rarely seen without a drink in her hand.
"Blue Jasmine" is a movie about love and family...and about the selfish desires that kill us. It's not a preachy film, nor does it desire to bring about change in anyone's heart; but if viewed under the right situations, I'm sure it could.
Allen's casual view of sex is gone for this film, every action has a reaction that could be devastating to a relationship or a person's well-being.
Jasmine is such a complex character; but Cate Blanchett nails her performance. She puts on a strong facade while inside she's's breathtaking to watch.
Allen's need for authenticity is key—the movie looks and feels very Californian.
Although the story is somewhat dire, it's not a painful movie to watch. The scenes I usually cringe at were very watchable.
Employing a strong cast featuring Louis C. K., Peter Sarsgaard, Andrew Dice Clay, and Bobby Cannavale; Woody Allen has made a movie that is sure to be considered one of his best.
If the Academy knows what they are doing, "Blue Jasmine" will gain Cate Blanchett another earned Oscar nomination. She is terrific—so is the movie.

Score: 4 out of 4 stars

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