Saturday, January 25, 2014

2013 Awards Circuit: Blue Jasmine Review

2013 Awards Circuit

Blue Jasmine Review
The 2013 Awards Circuit will be a collection of reviews of films that are in some kind of award running within the months of January through March. Not only will this prepare me for the big night (AKA Oscar Night), but it will also allow me to catch up with some of the critically acclaimed films I missed in 2013. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy watching and writing them.

I have always been a huge Woody Allen fan, and I don't think my love for his work will drought anytime soon. I think he's got a keen voice and an eye of a true artist. I don't like to get into the whole "Such-in-such is the greatest Woody Allen movie since..." fiasco. When a director and writer has been making one movie a year since the early 1970's, they are going to have a wide array of work. Plenty of examples of good and bad in their resume, plenty to experiment with and sample. When a director has been making movies that long, it makes that type of argument invalid. It also feels like it takes away from the experience as a whole.

"Blue Jasmine" is another joyous film that Mr. Allen can add to his filmography. But what surprised me most is how depressing it was, especially as the film concluded. This is definitely the saddest and most angry Woody Allen film in a very long time. Of course there are laughs in it, but those laughs are hard-boiled and are earned. I don't want what I am saying to sound negative, quite the opposite. Its been awhile since Allen has been this mature onscreen and it was welcoming on my part.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, who was married to Hal Francis (Alec Baldwin) who was a very talented investor. Jasmine lived the Hampton life, bathed in riches everyday. She is a woman who has lived the high life, even though she does not know entirely how her husband makes a living and what he does in his spare time. She decides to reach out to her less fortunate sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). But when she finds out that her husband has been cheating on her, she makes big decisions to make sure Hal pays for his past.

This leads her to loose that luxurious life she always wanted, and it forces her to move to San Francisco to start a new life with her sister. She has to go back to school, get a job to finance her classes, the whole bit. Not only that but she tries very hard to pry into her sister's personal life, even though she did not do the best job with hers. Blanchett and Hawkins do exceptional work as two dysfunctional sisters who still deeply love each other. Both actresses should be front and center for every award ceremony this year, easily some of the best acting Allen has ever caught on film. I love the way both actresses allow themselves to be completely de-glammed in this movie. For Blanchett in particular, there were plenty of moments in this film where I didn't even recognize her.

Not that Blanchett and Hawkins are alone. Baldwin does really great work as does Louis C.K. in his very small amount of screentime. I have to say that Bobby Cannavale easily steals the show for me as Ginger's deadbeat boyfriend. If anybody in this movie should become the next Woody Allen regular, its Bobby Cannavale. Out of all the performances in this film, its Cannavale who made me feel like I was watching a person, not a character. This is the highlight of his career so far, and I hope he only hits the ground running from this point. He is definitely becoming an actor to look for, if he wasn't at that caliber already.

Yes, this is a typical Woody Allen film, so all the women in are deeply troubled. Yes, there is plenty of cheating and divorce in it, just like every other movie Allen has made. Yet, even though Allen has used the same themes throughout his career, he still finds a way to make it all feel fresh. That's the best part of "Blue Jasmine," its freshness. For Allen-lovers, this will be pure bliss.

FINAL GRADE: A-

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