The Bock’s Office: ‘Blue Jasmine’ a seriocomic look at a mind unraveled
August 30, 2013
If you go
“Blue Jasmine,” rated PG-13
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars
Running time: 98 minutes
Starring: Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale
Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.
Craig — Sometimes complaining about your life to a friend makes you feel better just to know someone is listening. On the other hand, you have the heroine of "Blue Jasmine," for whom having a second person for a conversation is redundant as she prattles on about anything and everything.
Life was going so well for New Yorker Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) — married to a wealthy and generous businessman (Alec Baldwin), living in opulence and being the envy of every woman in her circle. But that was before her husband's empire of fraud came crashing down, leaving her completely broke and alone. Moving in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco provides her some support as she attempts to get back on her feet, but with no plans for herself, Jasmine is pretty much helpless without a steady supply of liquor and prescription pills to keep her from losing her mind. However, it's Ginger who might be going crazy as her sibling becomes more of a burden to her and her fiance (Bobby Cannavale).
Employing largely the same affectation she used in her Oscar-winning turn as Katherine Hepburn, Blanchett is near perfection as a woman for whom depression and self-pity are understatements. We get a glimpse of Jasmine — real name Jeanette — before and after her plunge from the upper class as she morphs from a stable and happy, albeit dependent, wife into a bitter, boozy mental case who never stops squawking about how unfair life has become, and though it takes some time to see her at her worst, rock bottom is uglier than you'd think.
As her endlessly accommodating and easily manipulated sister, Hawkins does just as well as single mother Ginger, whose taste in men leaves something to be desired, ricocheting from one loser to another, with comedian Andrew Dice Clay making a triumphant return in a small but pivotal part as her blue collar ex-husband, Augie, who still holds a grudge against his former in-laws effectively stealing his one chance to make something of himself.
Likewise, Cannavale's bit as loutish but loyal mechanic Chili reminds you of Stanley Kowalski finding himself with an unwelcome houseguest who won't get with the program.
If Blanche DuBois had her life thrown into upheaval after marrying Bernie Madoff, here would be the outcome. Woody Allen lays out the basic plot of "A Streetcar Named Desire" before taking it in his own direction with a woman who wraps herself up in her own perceived tragedy like a mink stole, never giving a thought to anyone else's issues.
Characters who are selfish yet sympathetic are some of the hardest to write, but Allen has done it before, and he'll do it again, crafting a fine character study, which Blanchett plays up with all her talents both comedic and the heavier stuff. The filmmaker's recent pattern of a so-so movie sandwiched between two good ones makes you forget about last year's "To Rome with Love" and remember what was so great about "Midnight in Paris" with relatable drama, nicely paced humor and a cast you wouldn't expect to mesh together so well.
Seriously, who ever would have predicted the star of "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" to make a comeback this way?
The one drawback is that Blanchett, through no fault of her own, takes center stage and plops down there permanently, with Jasmine's monstrous appetite for attention and vantage point of looking down her nose almost making us forget, hey, there are other people, too!
Although he doesn't utilize the whole ensemble of "Blue Jasmine" as well as he could, Allen still gives us a film that comes tantalizingly close to the heights he set for himself 30 years ago. Maybe we'll never see him top "Annie Hall" or "Hannah and Her Sisters," but sometimes you just have to take what life gives you.
Even if it's a nervous breakdown.
Andy Bockelman can be reached at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.
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