Blue Jasmine (2014)

Blue Jasmine (2014)

Cast: Cate Blanchett; Alec Baldwin; Bobby Cannavale; Andrew Dice Clay; Sally Hawkins; Peter Sarsgaard and Louis C.K.
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics 42562  
Director/Writer: Woody Allen
Video: 2.40:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 Color
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Extras: Notes From The Red Carpet; Blue Jasmine Press Conference
Length: 98 minutes
Rating: ***** 

At the beginning of Woody Allen’s film career, it seemed that he was emulating comic performer/directors like Jerry Lewis. Take The Money And Run, Bananas and Sleeper were slapstick hilarity. But Allen was an astute observer of relationships and their emotional baggage. In movies like Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah And Her Sisters and the Bergman-esque Stardust Memories, he explored the lighter and darker sides of romantic angst. Occasionally there was a pure comedy like Broadway Danny Rose. In later films, he shifted his locations to London, Paris and Rome.

Allen’s 2003 release, Blue Jasmine takes place in a different location, San Francisco. The lead character Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is a wealthy New York socialite whose nefarious husband (an unctuous Alec Baldwin) has destroyed their affluent lifestyle with unethical financial practices. Jasmine is forced to move in with her younger sister (Sally Hawkins) in a blue collar area. Cate Blanchett is riveting as the pill-swallowing, boozy neurotic who is desperately trying to cope. Jasmine is a drama queen, condescending (actually rude) to her sister and her working class boyfriend (played by Bobby Cannavale). Somehow, Blanchett creates a sympathetic heroine. Jasmine is a New Millennial Blanche Dubois, haughty and fragile. But she infuses an over-the-top, in-your-face New York attitude. For the first time Allen’s narrative context delves into the lives of people who are not wealthy. There are hilarious, disturbing meltdowns and confrontations as Jasmine’s world collapses. A rich suitor (Peter Sarsgaard) looks like a potential knight in shining armor, but dysfunction and emotional chaos prevail. This part of the story is the least plausible, but it is a minor flaw.

This story is unattractive at times, but compelling in its intelligence. The pace of the film is appropriate. (Take note, directors of excess…Woody Allen can make a substantial movie that is under 100 minutes.) His movies take on unlikeable protagonists (cheating, murderous husbands seems to be his forte) and make them watchable. Blanchett carries Blue Jasmine on her shoulders, and should dominate the award circuit. The DVD has excellent resolution, especially on tight face shots. [Transfer to DVD is getting so good many look as good as Blu-rays…Ed.] Realistic interior and rich exterior scenes are very effective, thanks to cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe.  The 5.1 mix is clear for all dialogue and there is plenty of soundtrack jazz.

—Robbie Gerson

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