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Cate Blanchett in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine

I have to say that I didn’t have particularly high expectations for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. I figured, like most of the recent Allen films that have been well-received, it would be a slightly overrated film relying on people desperately wishing for the Allen of old for its reputation. But this was genuinely a fine film. Cate Blanchett plays the title character, a woman married to a Bernie Madoff-like figure (Alec Baldwin). She’s living the high life but it all blows up after his financial improprieties (and affairs) are discovered. When he kills himself in prison, she goes borderline insane, starts talking to herself, and gets picked up. In lieu of an institution, she goes to San Francisco to live with her working-class sister (Sally Hawkins) who is somewhat resentful of her older sister’s snobbery, not to mention the marriage-wrecking investment she and her ex (Andrew Dice Clay) made with Baldwin. Blanchett thinks she can do better but when she briefly leaves her new boyfriend (Bobby Canavale) for Louis C.K., disaster happens. Disaster happens again for a desperate Blanchett too, leading to no happy ending.

Some have pointed that this is kind of a warmed over Streetcar Named Desire and others have noted that everything outside of Blanchett is bad. On the first charge, true I suppose, but who cares since it’s such an obvious homage to begin with; on the second, given that she is in almost every scene, it’s hard to say what the film would be like without her. But this was a fairly compelling a story about a fast-rising woman who had it all stripped away. It’s sympathetic without really making us feel all that sorry for her since she clearly looked away just enough so that she wouldn’t really know what Baldwin was up to, but she knew and she reveled in it.

This is not the most compelling look at the thin edge of morality of Allen’s career. That would be Crimes and Misdemeanors. On the other hand, it’s probably better than Match Point, which a less compelling and believable morality play but was widely loved because a) Allen’s previous 5 films really had been terrible and b) Scarlett Johnanssen’s burning sexuality so well directed by Woody. Overall, a very solid and above mid-level film in Allen’s legendary canon.