Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: Blue Jasmine

Release date: July 26, 2013 (August 2 in the DC area)
Running time: 98 minutes
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K.
Who to see it with: Someone drawn toward unlikable, but well-acted, protagonists


Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine skillfully balances comedy and drama better than the average dramedy. Left poor following the Bernie Madoff-like fall of her husband Hal (Baldwin), Jasmine (Blanchett) moves in with her lower class sister (Hawkins). Predictably, Jasmine does not readily accept her lowered status, barely concealing (and often readily displaying) her contempt for her new, poorer acquaintances and their meager surroundings. She's one of the most unlikable protagonists I've seen in some time, feeling no shame for being a mean, conceited, critical snob.

Somehow, Blanchett's performance and the script manage to make Jasmine somewhat sympathetic. As the film alternates between times before and after her husband's arrest, it becomes clear that she is also a victim of his actions in several ways, though her possible complicity in his crimes makes her less than innocent. She's clearly a bit unhinged, and her worsening mental state evokes both schadenfreude and tragedy. It's understandable that a dramatic change in lifestyle is traumatic, but that doesn't absolve her awful treatment of others. Most comedies about someone so troubled adopt an apparent lighthearted tone, but BJ's seriousness, understated humor and abrupt ending make the funny moments more unsettling, in retrospect. Blue Jasmine will make you both laugh at and pity its very well-acted, incredibly flawed protagonist.

See it.

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