Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine photo starrating-4stars.jpgA wealthy New York socialite moves in with her decidedly less well-to-do sister in California after her marriage falls apart. Perennial New Yorker Woody Allen actually began his filmmaking career in San Francisco where he shot his feature debut Take the Money and Run. His star turn in Play It Again Sam also took place in SF but he didn’t direct that. He returns to the city by the bay over 40 years later with the drama of a damaged woman. Cate Blanchett completely embodies this individual. Her consummate manner – including every facial tic, insensitive remark, cry for help – serves to paint a fully realized portrait of this woman. She must adapt from her comfortable existence in financial stability to one of more limited means. Whether she is a victim of circumstance or should be partially blamed for her own situation, is a fascinating question you’ll wrestle with as the story plays out.

Cate Blanchett is neurosis defined. She takes medication, drinks profusely, talks to herself and becomes unhinged in an unfettered depiction that should earn an Oscar nomination if there‘s any justice. A common aspect to Jasmine’s personality is to provoke her sister (Sally Hawkins) into finding a man that she deems more suitable. With Jasmine’s high class affections, Blanche Du Bois from A Streetcar Named Desire comes to mind. She even objects to their boorish behavior, first to ex husband (Andrew Dice Clay) and then current boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale). But the similarities end there. What makes Blanchett’s work so affecting is she is at once relatable but also inaccessible. She is understanding, yet aloof. We sympathize with her pain while we want to slap her in the face. It’s a difficult balancing act and Blanchett handles the feat with deft precision.

Blue Jasmine alternates between New York and San Francisco, the present day and her past. Uniting these threads is the tale of a woman in crisis. Jasmine’s real name is Jeanette but she decided that didn’t have a poetic ring to it. Right from the beginning as she is coming off a plane jabbering away to her flight companion, Blanchett IS Jasmine. This doesn’t feel like acting. It would be easy to disconnect from this socialite’s fall from high society. At one point she recounts an incident after her collapse while she was working as a sales clerk in NY and one of her affluent gal pals walked in. She describes the experience as such an extreme indignity you’d have thought she was describing prostitution. In less capable hands the character would have been someone to hate or laugh at. But Blanchett’s achievement demands your concerned attention. With a mixture of fierce pride and desolate shame she brings humanity to this woman. Blanchett is an actress who has given her share of exceptional performances over the last 2 decades. I do not say this lightly, but her portrayal here ranks among the very best of her career. Yes she’s that good.

And now for a little insight: As someone who lives in the San Francisco Bay area it’s hard not to take exception to Allen’s view of San Francisco as the ultimate comedown for the upper elite of NY. I had to chuckle at how Ginger’s economical digs are depicted as simple and plain. The interior of her so-called modest apartment in the Mission district was actually filmed at 20th and Lexington. In a city where a driveway is a luxury, her ample space would easily rent for $3,000+ a month. She’s a supermarket cashier, by the way. Not exactly the living quarters of a sister who should be pitied. If that’s hardship, I’m ready to suffer.

29 Responses to “Blue Jasmine”

  1. “her portrayal here ranks among the very best of her career. Yes she’s that good.”

    Oh my god, I want to see this. Badly. Huge Woody Allen fan, which you know, but it sounds like he’s started up Oscar season already. I loved Cate Blanchett in The Aviator, among a few other things, so working with Woody would be so outstanding for her (even if it’s not a comedy). Great review, Mark.

    Just a little side note, can’t help but throw it out there: What’s Up, Tiger Lily? was actually Woody Allen’s directorial debut, in 1967. He’s credited as co-director sometimes, and other times purely director, because the point of the film is where he takes a Japanese action movie and redubs the dialogue so that it’s no longer an action movie; it’s a movie about trying to find the world’s best omelette recipe (or some sort of recipe, can’t quite remember). Take the Money and Run was his second film, in 1969.


    • Yeah I don’t consider re-dubbing a film directing. Ditto for rearranging the scenes. Maybe writing or editing I guess.

      Back to Cate – I really was impressed with her performance. Thought top 3 of her career at first. Now I’m thinking #1.


      • He appears in the intro. and says he directed it (but then again, he’s Woody Allen, what else would he say). He’s also credited as writer, I believe, and his then-wife, Louise Lasser, co-dubbed with him; they also have a “love scene” in projection shadows near the end, and I think at that moment the original reel is paused. VERY creative, but it’s not his typical directing style, and the joke does wear thin after a bit.

        I thought Ms. Blanchett was great in Notes on a Scandal. That’s probably the best of seen of her, followed by The Aviator and The Overrated Case of Benjamin Button. Lord of the Rings, not so much…she’s just there for the same reason that woman who ate out with Lord of the Rings cardboard standups would play Galadriel, I guess.


  2. Good review Mark. Not Woody’s best, nor his worst. It’s just a pretty good flick of his, that just so happens to have an amazing performance from Blanchett, as well as the rest of the reliable cast.


  3. Fantastic review! I’m so looking forward to this movie. Woody + Cate chould be phenomenal! (Also loved the little postscript)


  4. Only 3,000 for her apartment that is slumming for sure 😉

    I actually want to check this out sounds interesting San Fran slumming aside.


  5. GaryLee828 Says:

    I haven’t heard of this, and just quit reading your review halfway through b/c I’m gonna try to watch this in the near future. I saw Louie CK’s name on the poster, and I like his stand-up and his series a lot, so hopefully he’s good in this, as well. I will try to remember to come back to this review and finish after I watch, and then drop a more detailed comment.

    *On a side note I LOVED Woody Allen’s thriller “Match Point”! 🙂


    • You don’t have to worry about spoilers in my reviews. I never give anything away that you wouldn’t discover from the first 15 minutes of watching the film.

      Match Point is a great great film. So different from what Woody is known for.


      • GaryLee828 Says:

        I looked this movie up and it hasn’t even made it’s way to my city yet, but hopefully it does sometime this month and I can go see; but if not I will try to rent it from Amazon or i-tunes.

        You’ve got me expecting big things here; at least with the performances! 🙂


  6. Cate Blanchett! That’s really all I have to say. She was absolutely amazing. This performance shows what kind of a great actress she truly is. The movie is pretty good, but I recommend seeing it for Cate. You will see later when Oscar noms are released. I guarantee it. 4 stars


  7. Hey Mark,
    It’s Nikki from Prada! Loving your whole blog right now! I’m super sick and was bugging everyone for movie referrals and then it dawned on me! Duh! Go figure your taste in movies is spot on! I’m loading this movie now and will leave a movie related comment after I watch it but sounds great already can’t wait! Hope all is well!


    • Hey Nikki from Prada! (I’m calling you by your full name from now on. Ha ha.) Blanchett might even wear some Prada in this. She’s a designer-wearing basket case. Sorry to hear you’re sick. Hope you enjoy the film and it makes you feel better. I loved it obviously.


  8. Diana Post Says:

    All I can say is that Cate is marvelous in this movie! See movie for that reason.


  9. Finally got around to seeing this, and I have to say that while I agree with you on the quality of the performances (in particular, Blanchett’s emotionally drained lead character) I really had trouble getting behind anyone and supporting them. they were all very, very unlikable to me and made the film a tough one to sit through. having said that, this was only my second Woody Allen outing so maybe i need to sample more to get a feel for the types of characters he uses instead of me just judging these particular ones. either way, an interesting story but forgettable, for me anyway


    • Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine was a profoundly sad character. Granted she was narcissistic and shallow but she was also fragile and damaged. She wasn’t perfect, but she was human and because of that, sympathetic

      Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, and Peter Sarsgaard weren’t saints but they weren’t devils either. I thought each one exhibited a fair share of likeability. I suppose one will appreciate them if fond of humanity – something on resplendent display here.


  10. Thank you for the recommendation Mark, and good review.

    If i didn’t read this, probably wouldn’t have known the movie existed. i don’t notice new movies anymore if they aren’t advertised much on TV, or if they are not very noticeable on Rotten Tomatoes.

    i saw this film last friday(back to back with Riddick if may add), and it was very good. if it had a more positive ending, it would have been great.

    what a Fascinating character study. there aren’t too many movies with characters this damaged. i think Charlize Therone starred in one a few years ago.

    and what a powerful (and exhausting) performance by Blanchett. i would imagine hundreds of actresses auditioning for this career defining type of role. but Blanchetts sophisticated screen presence was perfect. Winslet would be my second choice.

    And Allen is discerning as always in finding comedy around even around the more painful scenes. very good movie.


    • Oh my gosh! Young Adult is the movie you’re talking about with Charlize Theron and that’s a perfect comparison. Very unpleasant characters but still individuals to be pitied. Good reference!

      Kate Winslet (like Blanchett) can do anything. So a worthy second choice.


  11. The Movie Man Says:

    I so agree with your review. If there’s any justice, she should definitely get an Oscar nomination. I’d be happy for her to win the award too, because this is my personal favourite performance I’ve seen of Blanchett (yes, even more than Elizabeth). I gave it four stars too. Great review 🙂


    • Looking forward to seeing who else emerges as Best Actress contenders. Judi Dench (Philomena), Sandra Bullock (Gravity), Meryl Streep (August: Osage County) are names I keep hearing too, but it’s not anywhere near as much as Cate’s. She is the clear front-runner at this point.


  12. I’ve finally managed to see this film! I thought it was pretty underwhelming, although Blanchett is very good (but not amazing), the story plods along too much and I didn’t care about any of the characters except for hers. I had a good laugh at your insight at the bottom – while I was watching it I did wonder if it was a case of a reverse of Friends or Sex and the City where the characters are inexplicably rich, yet here they are oddly poor! Not Woody Allen’s worst, but far from his best and I’m not sure why so many people gave this 5 stars. I think 3/5 is fair; it is billed as a dramedy, yet I was barely moved nor laughed a great deal at all. Yet another insightful review though, Mark.


    • I really thought Cate was extraordinary. One of her best, if not the very best performance of her career. I’m not even sure if you’re meant to care for her but you’re supposed to be fascinated by this individual. The character is incredibly real and yet she is ridiculous. It’s an amazing feat what she does here — the reason why she won the Oscar.


  13. Hi Mark!
    Came to your site to read your full review of ‘Foxcatcher’ via Flixster, and over an hour later I’m totally enjoying your reviews, the comments, and your comments to the comments!!

    I was absolutely STUNNED by CB’s performance…I kept telling anyone who would listen, even strangers, that she was NOT acting, she was an actual woman having an actual NERVOUS BREAKDOWN on screen..every muscle twitch, every voice inflection, every eye blink simply took my breath away. And now we know that she did in fact win her well-deserved Oscar.

    I live in Sonoma County & I didn’t catch on about how there’s no way that Jasmine’s sister could have afforded that apartment on her cashier’s salary. A few weeks ago I was driving on 19th Avenue and saw those cute little dollhouses, I think they’re called “pink ladies” (?). I heard they’re going for one MILLION dollars. EACH.

    I really enjoy your site and plan to come back later to chat about ‘Foxcatcher’.

    Keep up the awesome work🙌


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