"Blue Jasmine" (2013)- Movie Review

Written and directed by Woody Allen
Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and Sally Hawkins

‘An Unexpected Spiral Downwards’

For a reasonable hour or so, Woody Allen’s latest offering “Blue Jasmine” flirts with greatness. In the middle of the witty, energetically delivered dialogue, interestingly crafted characters and adorable acting, there’s charm. A charm so irresistible and scrumptious that, like any tasty dessert, it’s hard to resist gobbling it up. Whether it’s the fascinating interactions or the bubbling intrigue behind the characters themselves, Allen appears to have a great grip on his drama.

Yet it doesn’t last for long. Halfway through this engaging film, the proceedings are carelessly thrown downhill. As if a totem top suddenly stopped spinning. What at first seems like a truly astonishing effort transforms into nothing but middling, sorely lacking entertainment. Familiar alright; as director Woody Allen decides to stay in his usual comfort zone. This safe choice, however, comes with a dreary cost: a movie that only serves as bearable time pass. Somewhat entertaining, “Blue Jasmine” has glimpses of Allen’s magical talent, but not enough to mend an otherwise middle-of-the-road, utterly forgettable film.

Undoubtedly, the director uses his actors beautifully. As a filmmaker, Woody Allen has always been known for assembling tales featuring loads of famous actors. Although stuffing too many into a single movie is a risky task, Allen doesn’t think twice before making his decisions. Questionably, is his style out of ambition or the power that stars have to sell a movie? Nearly all of the director’s offerings such as 2011’s “Midnight in Paris” as well as 2012’s “To Rome With Love” have formidable casts. Getting to know as many actors as possible appears to be his favorite hobby. Thankfully enough, it falls into place with “Blue Jasmine”.

The dramedy is bolstered by an impressive cast, orchestrating a story about confused people seeking love, dignity and acceptance. Cate Blanchett stars in the central role as Jasmine, a frustrated woman coping with the aftermath of her husband’s (Alec Baldwin) death. She’s a tremendously devastated, pre-occupied New Yorker who doesn’t quite know what to do with her life. Could a visit to her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco aspire hope? She has developed bad habits of taking various pills as well as talking to herself. Yet as she reconnects with her beloved sibling, this pessimistic yet aggressive character discovers her potential in life. Demanding, though, is the challenge of overcoming her past to focus on the future instead.

Give the undisputed prize to Woody Allen for managing to get the absolute best out of- if not every star -at the very least Cate Blanchett. This talented, graceful actress who never disappoints, delivers an absolutely brilliant performance as a deeply resentful soul. It isn’t the kind of acting that’s confined by anything, but neither is it similar to the roles she’s tackled before. This allows her to let loose; seemingly off the chain in order to captivate through rare ferocity and rage. Although Jasmine is a tough person to portray, due to her over-the-top bitter reflections on life, Blanchett steals the show. She turns out to be the perfect choice for the role: deftly crafting together a memorable persona with striking screen presence. Despite the protagonist’s unlikable nature, the British performer makes you root for her until the very end.

However less significant their characters are, the supporting cast is a delightful surprise as well. As Jasmine’s sister, Sally Hawkins brings forth an ever-so-adorable charm. Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale (in order) play her boyfriends, tuning in irresistible charisma and displaying panache for creating comical relief. The famous Alec Baldwin also comes into the heart of events; it’s a small role yet this star is somehow still able to spice up his character.

Unfortunately, though, none of these actors are able to save “Blue Jasmine” from being a pure time pass. Nor are they strong enough to redeem the misguided direction by Woody Allen. Admittedly, this filmmaker has the necessary components of a great movie laid out: fascinating characters and an interesting story. But he never really goes anywhere with them. There’s many directions to take with such a story, but Allen refuses to take them and stays in conventional, familiar territory. This decision to stay in safe comfort zone turns out to be the culprit, causing problems such as poor pacing as well as a lack of excitement. True, this movie is entertaining but it isn’t quite consistent in it’s proceedings, losing steam every now and then during it’s short running time.

Dialogue, as anyone would expect from an Allen film, springs with undeniable richness, provocation and distinctiveness. Problematic, however, is the fact that it stands out on an infrequent basis. Not nearly enough as one would hope from an otherwise persistent writer. Here, the majority of the witty, humorous and crackling lines are delivered in the first-hour of the film. It’s a joy to watch the characters interacting until the mark of dullness in the second-half, where the memorable dialogue abruptly comes to an end.

At least this director’s got a tight grasp on musical choices. Just like he did with 2011’s “Midnight in Paris”, he places great importance on music. Soothing, upbeat and quite engaging, it never comes across as overbearing; a tricky feat.

In spite of the large pitfalls, both the soundtrack and stunning performers sell “Blue Jasmine” as solid entertainment. It’s a step down from what we usually come to expect from Woody Allen (e.g. Midnight in Paris), but devoted fans of this filmmaker will more than likely be pleased.

For those who aren’t fans, on the other hand, it’s the kind of movie that’ll be forgotten as soon as its seen.

2.5/5 stars

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