Tag Archives: woody allen

Review – Blue Jasmine (12a) [2013]

Blue Jasmine - title banner

Star Rating: 4.5/5

Director:

Cast:

  • Cate Blanchett – The Lord of the Rings I-III, The Aviator, Notes On A Scandal, The Hobbit I, II & III
  • Alec Baldwin – Pearl Harbour, The Aviator, The Departed, Still Alice
  • Sally Hawkins – Layer Cake, An Education, Great Expectations, Godzilla
  • Andrew Dice Clay – Whatever It Takes, Foolish, Point Doom, Entourage
  • Bobby Carnavale – The Bone Collector, Snakes On A Plane, Parker, Imagine
  • Peter Saarsgard – Rendition, An Education, Orphan, Pawn Sacrifice
  • Daniel Jenks
  • Max Rutherford

Midnight In Paris was a renaissance for Woody Allen. After half a decade without making a decent film, Midnight In Paris won him another Oscar for Best Writing. More importantly, the film reminded us of his talents. Blue Jasmine continues Allen’s re-emergence as a brilliant film director and script writer.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), dressed to stun, and living the good life with her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and so-called friends.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), in stunning garb, living the good life with her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and their (so-called) friends.

Blue Jasmine centres round the fine-looking Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who is struggling to come to terms with how her life has turned upside down. From living the glamorous life with her former husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), in New York, Jasmine takes a few steps down in the world and moves in with her adopted sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Ginger lives in a small, cluttered apartment in San Francisco with her two sons from her previous marriage to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), whilst doing a menial day-job and having a relationship with the loutish Chili (Bobby Carnavale).

With Jasmine’s situation hardly to her liking, she finds it difficult to sort herself out. In fact, after so many years of living the high life without doing or needing to do a day’s work, Jasmine is in the midst of a nervous breakdown that worsens with every passing day.

Blue Jasmine’s storyline is simple and well thought through. In a typical Allen way, like Midnight In Paris, Blue Jasmine skips back and forth between the (dour) present and the (glitzy) not-too-distant past, dishing us out with the necessary revelations at the opportune moments about why Jasmine left New York and Hal. This style may seem confusing at first. But one adapts to it quite quickly, and soon enough the movie’s approach becomes formulaic and predictable; not that these take anything away from the film.

Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), Jasmine's low-class adopted sister and brother-in-law. Jasmine and Ginger are so different, it is hard to believe that they were brought up by the same parents.

Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), Jasmine’s low-class adopted sister and brother-in-law. Jasmine and Ginger are so different, it is hard to believe that they were brought up by the same parents.

Blue Jasmine is intelligent, well-written and surprisingly amusing. Despite taking a detailed and dispiriting view on serious matters like cheating, fraud and (to an under-employed extent) people trying to make ends meet, the movie is littered with wry and cutting humour that many people, rich or poor, can empathise with and find funny. That Blue Jasmine is only 98 minutes long works in the film’s favour too. It answers all of its own questions efficiently and does not drag (unlike blockbuster bore-fests, such as Transformers III, Prometheus and Man of Steel).

Unquestionably, Blue Jasmine‘s script is superb and delivered with panache by the cast. Cate Blanchett’s performance is the most magnetic of them all. Blanchett encapsulates Jasmine’s ability to look wonderful, yet never be far from looking like a nervous wreck; to enjoy her lifestyle, yet turn a blind eye to the things she doesn’t want to see; and to be a melodramatic alcoholic about her existence, yet lie pathologically when she sniffs a chance to escape it. That Blanchett pulls this off so as to make Jasmine’s character (and breakdown) seem realistic, much like Joaquin Phoenix did in The Master, is noteworthy. One only has to look at how Natalie Portman’s (Oscar winning) breakdown in Black Swan became farcical by the end to realise the remarkableness of Blanchett’s skills, and that is without needing to compare it to Robert Downey Jr.’s feigned attempt at a nervous breakdown in Iron Man III.

While Blanchett is likely to take most of the plaudits for Blue Jasmine, the supporting cast play their parts to make the film noteworthy too. Sally Hawkins exemplifies an (immature) younger sibling, filled with inferiority-complexes, believing that none of her mother’s good genes were passed on to her. Alec Baldwin typifies a smooth-talking (slimy) businessman that has echoes of Bernie Madoff. Bobby Carnavale portrays a coarse, blue-collar working, beer-drinking, lad’s man in a down to earth manner. And Andrew Dice Clay plays the embittered (and somewhat broken), former husband well enough, although, he’s hardly in the movie; and when he does appear, he always has something significant to add to the plot that has a semi-contrived feel.

Jasmine, looking terrible after losing her wealth and status, looking like she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Jasmine, looking terrible after losing her wealth and status, looking like she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

The only characters who are not detailed are Ginger’s two children, Matthew (Daniel Jenks) and Johnny (Max Rutherford). These two add little to the story, which begs the question of why they are in the film. A similar argument could be made toward the music that Allen adopts. The movie is set within the last decade, but the music sounds like it is from between the 1930s-50s, which is an odd choice as it appears out of place. But none of these issues should detract from what is otherwise a great film.

All-in-all, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is a smart, satisfying and entertaining movie about sombre issues. With a magnificent and engaging central character, and a convincing supporting cast, Allen’s excellent script is delivered with great sincerity and sardonic humour. Above-all, Blue Jasmine confirms Allen’s renaissance and cements his position as one of the best film directors and script writers that Hollywood has at its disposal. Long may the rebirth continue!

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Review – Midnight In Paris (12a) [2011]

Star Rating: 3/5

<<guest review by KJF>>

Woody Allen’s popularity at the Box Office has waned of late; some of his recent films didn’t even get a UK distribution. The glory days of Annie Hall and Manhattan seem a long time ago. This, however, is set to change with his delightful romantic fantasy, Midnight In Paris. Owen Wilson (The Royal Tennenbaums, The Wedding Crashers, Little Fockers) plays Gil, a screenwriter who has given up the day-job to write The Big Novel. He’s spending time in Paris with his high-maintenance fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams – Mean Girls, The Notebook, State of Play), and her parents, all the while looking for inspiration. Wandering the streets late at night, Gil finds himself transported back to the Parisian world of the 1920s .

Gil (Owen Wilson), Inez (Rachel McAdams) and friends getting a drawn-out talk by Paul (Michael Sheen) in ‘modern day’ Paris.

Allen’s film is a loving homage to Paris. The opening scenes are wordless shots of the city’s famous sites, accompanied by a jazz soundtrack. It also has gentle digs at the tourist culture it has spawned, particularly the behaviour of Americans in Paris: the brash types who just want to shop, eat and don’t bother attempting to learn the language, or know-alls who like to preen around celebrated cultural artefacts and spout off all they know. The latter is wonderfully encapsulated in Michael Sheen’s (The Deal, The Queen, Frost/Nixon) performance as the pompous academic, Paul.

When Gil finds himself in the 1920s, almost everyone he encounters is a famous face from the time. In fact, Allen unleashes a whole parade of illustrious writers and artists from the period, along with a series of knowing in-jokes as they interact with Gil. There’s, for instance, a brooding Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll – Law & Order:LA),  a youthful F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston – ArchipelagoThor, The Avengers Assemble). Gil even gets the majestic Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates – Misery, Titanic, Alice) to read a draft of his novel. This is overall a wonderful set-up, and Wilson travels through it with engagingly wide-eyed delight. It does occasionally feel a bit schematic as we are introduced from one artistic type to the next, without finding out that much about them. The 1920s scenes, though, are joyously shot whether we’re led through the wonderfully nourish streets or experiencing the lovingly realised parties, full of dancing and Cole Porter songs.

Gil also comes across the beautiful Adriana. She’s played by Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose, Inception, Contagion) playing another variant on the ‘dream woman’ as seen in Inception. Naturally he falls in love with her, and finds himself conflicted between the ironically ‘old world’ of 2010 and the beautiful ‘golden age’ of the 1920s.

Adriana (Marion Cotillard), one of the wonders of Paris in the 1920s.

As if just to dazzle us with famous names of the past wasn’t enough, Allen drops into a film a living famous name, in the shape of Carla Bruni, wife of the current French President, Nicholas Sarkozy. She cameos as a rather restrained museum guide. A little casting quirk, which is delightful to spot, but doesn’t add much to the story.

Are Gil’s time-travel exploits just occurring in his head as he seeks to find himself a direction in life? Is the theme of the film that we are all seeking our own personal ‘golden ages’? We are left to ponder these questions. Yet, the journey Allen conjures up is so infectiously entertaining that in the end they don’t really matter.

KJF