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If you want to see this year's master class in screen acting, you need to watch Cate Blanchett's mesmerizing performance as Jasmine French, a delusional Park Avenue socialite wife in Woody Allen's 46th directorial effort, a sly, bicoastal update of Tennessee Williams' classic A Streetcar Named Desire. As the film opens, her impeccably dressed character has hit rock bottom after her financial wizard of a husband is arrested and her assets are liquidated. In the throes of a nervous breakdown, she arrives in San Francisco and moves in with her kind-hearted sister Ginger who lives a modest, blue-collar life in a tiny apartment on the edge of the Mission - on South Van Ness near 14th Street to be exact - with her two hyperactive sons. You can tell Jasmine is not only out of her element but quite judgmental about how her sister's life has turned out. The irony of Jasmine's patronizing attitude is that she is a habitual liar who is so angry about her destitute circumstances that she frequently talks to herself. The story follows the basic outline of "Streetcar" but takes some interesting turns, for instance, when she tries to better herself by taking computer classes while working as a receptionist at a dental office.

Allen has crafted his film into a clever juxtaposition of current and past events that feels jarring at first since it reflects Jasmine's precarious mental state but then melds into a dramatic arc which resonates far more than a straightforward chronology could have allowed. As a writer, he has become more vociferous in his dialogue without losing his wit. He doesn't pull punches when he showcases confrontations between his characters, whether it's between the two sisters, men and women, or people from different classes. Hostility can come in flammable torrents or in thinly veiled remarks. That Allen moves so dexterously in tone is a testament to his sharp ability in drawing out the truth in his actors. Blanchett is a wonder in this regard because there is something intensely fearless in her approach. Unafraid to lose audience sympathy for her character, she finds an innate sadness in Jasmine that makes us want to know what happens to her next. She also mines the sharp, class-based humor in Jasmine's struggles with one highlight a hilariously executed scene in a pizza restaurant where she explains to her confused nephews to "Tip big, boys".

The rest of the cast manage effective turns. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine's swindler husband with almost effortless aplomb. Sally Hawkins brings a wonderful looseness to Ginger, Stella to Blanchett's Blanche, and finds a level of poignancy in her character's constant victimization at the hands of her sister as well as her brutish, blue-collar boyfriend Chili, played with comic fierceness by Bobby Cannavale in the Stanley Kowalski role. In a conveniently conceived role, Peter Sarsgaard gets uncharacteristically breezy as Dwight, a wealthy, erudite, and matrimonially available State Department diplomat who appears to be the answer to Jasmine's prayers, while Allen casts two unlikely comics in about-face roles - Andrew Dice Clay as Ginger's defeated ex-husband Augie and Louis C.K. as Al, an amorous suitor who brings Ginger a few moments of romantic salvation. Allen's European sojourn appears to have freed him up with the movement of characters in scenes and Javier Aguirresarobe's (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) camerawork complies nicely. The San Francisco locations bring a nice geographic change to Allen's storytelling, and he only uses the Golden Gate Bridge in a long shot once from the Marin side. This is Allen's best work in quite a while, and Blanchett is the ideal muse for his tale.
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on July 28, 2013
Isn't that what we want from Woody? Yeah, it's his best work in some years. One of those films where he manages to withdraw his own personality to a distance, where there's no character obviously speaking the "Woody" part. That part's been done over the years with varying results by Kenneth Branagh, Will Ferrell, Larry David, and others. But when he vanishes all together, when there's just his characters, speaking in all their poignant screwed-up humanity, who needs the nebbish wise-cracking about how meaningless life is?

Some of the critics seem to see this movie as a scathing indictment of capitalism in general, Wall St in particular, an unbridgeable gap separating its tony, well-to-do characters and its scruffy middle class ones. What it actually is about is the perils of living a life based on pretense and deception, where the only ones who claim happiness in the end are those comfortable in their own skin, no matter how modest their means. Cate Blanchett is by turns, heart-breaking and appalling in her narcissistic ravings. Equally memorable in a very different part is Sally Hawkins, the sister whose world Jasmine descends into, bringing the sort of moral and comedic chaos we've come to expect from the master. (Woody previously used her to great effect in a small part in Cassandra's Dream).

I feared going in, having read that this was among Woody's darker visions, that there would be little to like in its characters, that their own self-absorption would keep the audience at arm's length. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is in his darker works .Cassandra's Dream,Match Point,Crimes and Misdemeanors) that he crafts his most endearing and enduring characters. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon October 5, 2013
I bought a ticket to this movie knowing absolutely nothing about it, and almost immediately as it began I knew I was watching a Woody Allen movie.

I cannot say exactly why this is so. Perhaps it was the richness of the character study, and the fact that Allen writes so excellently for female characters. In any event, Cate Blanchett's character, and her brilliant performance of this down on her luck former socialite married to a conman husband played by Alec Baldwin, may be the best female character performance you will see on a movie screen this year, and Blanchett's performance is probably the most Oscar worthy I have seen so far.

Set in San Francisco in the present day it unfolds the complex relationship of two sisters, one upper class but fallen on hard times, and her working class sister who makes working class choices. Because it unfolds in a non linear fashion it appears to dip randomly into different events over a period of about 15 years or so, and we understand why the sister is working class.

One of the themes of the movie is honesty, and facing reality, and Jasmine makes choices that seem oblivious to it. She fibs and tells little lies, at one level self deceptive, and at another deceptive of others. We may not like her for this, but if you're like me, I felt tremendous compassion for her, even loved her in spite of everything, which is not often I feel that way about a character. She suffers from severe anxiety, and the events she has to undergo take a toll on her. One particular choice she makes has particularly severe repercussions, yet in the moment we fully understand it.

I think it is fair to say moving to Europe and making films there has been wonderful for Woody Allen. In an interview he said that his previous movies were critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful. Now he has made a series of outstanding movies, and written brilliant roles particularly for women.

I cannot claim to love all of them, but Vicky Cristina Barcelona was excellent and Penelope Cruz won an Oscar for her performance. Match Point is probably my personal favorite starring Scarlet Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, about an upwardly mobile ambitious tennis coach, and what may be a perfect murder. Midnight in Paris was dreamy and sentimental, and won an Oscar for best screenplay. Woody Allen has been nominated a staggering 23 times for an Academy Award winning four times, three times for Best Original Screenplay, and once for Best Director of Annie Hall.

Actors who worked with him have also won Oscars. Remember Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite, and Michael Caine for Hannah and Sisters.

As someone who lives in San Francisco, I can say that he makes it look almost better than the reality, and a beige BMW can do wonders to enliven the surroundings.

It seems to me that like a good wine, Woody just gets better with age, and easily maintains his excellence with this movie.

I think most people will enjoy this movie, and I hope this was helpful.
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on January 21, 2014
2013 has undeniably been an incredible year for female leading performances. It’s going to be very hard for the Oscar voters to pick just one. However, one performance from the summer that nobody has forgotten is gaining momentum with each passing award show leading up to the Oscars in early March.

I was lucky enough to see “Blue Jasmine” in the theater last summer, before all of the awards hoopla began. I suppose I simply never got around to writing a review on it. That’s my own fault. Rewatching “Blue Jasmine” on DVD this afternoon made me realize just what a gem this film was, and how realistic and true to life it is. We rarely see something this honest, this bracingly adult in American cinema. Thank goodness for Woody Allen.

Truthfully, I don’t care for Woody Allen as a person, but it’s an undeniable fact that he makes incredible films. He’s gone off the rails and made a few subpar pictures, but even subpar Allen is still better than what you might see at the movie theater most of the time. “Blue Jasmine” represents a return to form for the director, who has been in the business for over sixty years. It’s a fresh and fearless character study that proves he still has stories to tell.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) leaves her swanky Park Avenue life after her husband, a Bernie Madoff type (Alec Baldwin) is jailed for embezzling millions of dollars. Even though Jasmine is broke, she still manages to get a first class plane ticket to see her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and her boyfriend (Bobby Cannavalle) who she isn’t particularly fond of. Jasmine stays with her sister and her children, in their modest apartment, and struggles to find work and generally make sense out of what her life has become.

Jasmine certainly has varying mental illnesses, although it’s never clear to the viewer what is the root cause of Jasmine’s downfall. She’s constantly drinking and mixing prescription medication, but it appears her body is used to this. Her real mental illness doesn’t have one root cause. It really is all sorts of things. It’s mentioned that she had been through a psychiatric facility of some kind after a nervous breakdown, and it’s clear, with every passing moment, that she may be on the verge of another.

Her sister is happy in her humble little life, which really disgusts and enrages Jasmine. She is horrified that her sister has “settled” for a life so plain and devoid of everything that made her happy. The two are polar opposites, but our leading lady never quite understands that.

The plot is essentially an update on “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Jasmine is reminiscent of the 1950’s housewife whose husband has abandoned her, and has nary a skill to fall back on. Always walking around in gorgeous Chanel jackets and drinking her Stoli martinis (with a twist of lemon) it’s obvious she is desperate to reclaim the lavish lifestyle that she once had. Ginger has always relied on men to bring her happiness, and in a way, so has Jasmine. Both ladies need to learn to live with what they have become individually, because it’s hard to rely on a relationship or a marriage to keep a person happy.

Her life has been simply swept out from under her. Through flashbacks, we understand Jasmine’s story more deeply. At the core, this film is about what a person does after their life has fallen apart. Allen has written such a rich character in Jasmine, and no actress other than Blanchett could have played her. The character doesn’t require an actress of great range (she’s crazy at the start and crazy at the end), but does require an actress who understands how precise and layered this character is.

"Blue Jasmine" is not a comedy, and it doesn’t leave the viewer feeling all warm and fuzzy at the end. It certainly has its moments of comedic brilliance, but it’s definitely a drama, more than anything. Jasmine is not a happy person, and her story isn’t necessarily a pleasant one. But it’s certainly a ride worth taking.

Grade: A+
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on July 14, 2015
The fragility of the human spirit is awesome. We see some who appear to be so strong (the trappings of lots of stuff, status, money can mask their weaknesses), crumble like a piece of crepe paper when the truth is revealed. We see others who have so little, triumph day after day, and rarely complain. First of all, Cate B., is brilliant in this film. Alec Baldwin, whose performance is fine, is upstaged by his absolutely ridiculously dyed hair. (Men of a certain age should never dye their hair...NEVER! And sculpted eyebrows are for women only.) There are other good performances, including Peter Saarsgard, he looks so healthy on his new veganish diet. But it is the story that is so compelling here and the obvious juxtapositioning of class in America and truth telling. Which is better: to steal, cheat and lie and be rich, Or to work for every dollar, be honest, tell the truth to yourself and others and be relatively poor? Neither one seems like a recipe for happiness. Of course, this is a false choice, because life is never black and white. And we see the players in Allen's story sometimes struggle with the false choice. Jasmine only struggles, when she is hurt by the man making her dreams come true. When she finally realizes and is willing to face the truth, she snaps. Taut, lots of subtexts, and thrilling to watch, this like Allen's Matchpoint, digs deep into human behavior, which is never boring.
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on October 31, 2015
Woody Allen has made some great films. This is not one of them. It is exasperating that so many do not seem to notice the precipitous decline in Allen's writing ability over the last few decades. Where he once crafted believable characters with depth, we now have just caricatures. Jasmine is rich, neurotic and spoiled. Her ex is a jerk. Her sister, her ex and fiancé and their acquaintances are all unsophisticated galoots. Got it? This is not the same writer of Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Hannah and Her Sisters, Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Misdemeanors (his last great film), Sweet and Lowdown, etc.

While the film is supposed to take place in San Francisco, it has little resemblance to the actual city. For one, the working class people depicted would priced out of the metropolitan area and certainly not be able to afford a 3-bedroom apartment. Also, personality-wise, there is nothing San Francisco about them. This might have been a chance for Allen to poke fun at the uber-earnest leftist or hippy-dippy culture that exists there (the way he made fun of LA and Hollywood in Annie Hall), but he doesn't. The characters would probably make more sense in New Jersey. Oh, and Jasmine spends most of her free time trying to learn how to use a computer(?) before she can take classes on line. Who under 70 does not have basic computer skills? Not surprising has Woody Allen has had no clue about the real world at this point and no one has the guts to tell him.

There are a few bright spots. The cinematography is still high-quality. We do get some brief fleeting flashes of Allen's humor - namely, the dentist initially trying to pick up on Jasmine (before this plot line takes a dark turn) . We also get the typical tired dixieland jazz soundtrack. While Allen has excellent taste in music and usually makes it work, here it seems tired and uninspired.

No one should be surprised by this. All Allen's latest movies have been terribly overrated (especially Midnight in Paris. I suppose not having to look at Allen and having his characters dumbed-down may have help the popularity of some of these films. He still has interesting ideas but appears to lack the skills or energy to carry them off. With the exception of maybe Vicky Christie Barcelona and Match Point (watchable but not great films) it is pretty sad how far Allen has fallen.

Finally, Allen has not appeared to care about casting since the breakup with Farrow. Every actor feels the need to work with the great genius in order to show that they are an artist and not just a movie star. This leads to some very annoying choices (See Owen Wilson). Here, everyone does the best they can with the material. Andrew Dice Clay is surprisingly good in a supporting role. Still his films have suffered further from the loss of the amazing Farrow and Diane Keaton, among others.

This is really nothing new and started around the time of Celebrity with the nadir being somewhere around Jade Scorpion and Hollywood Ending (both terrible). One wonders if maybe its time to hang it up. Otherwise he is just diminishing what was once a great career. It is perplexing that not even most seasoned critics seem to acknowledge this.
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Cate Blanchette deserves the Oscar for this fabulous performance as a woman who had everything and is now on the edge. Jeanette French, or as she is called now, Jasmine, arrives in San Francisco to live with her divorced sister and her two children. Jasmine has bent the ear of her seat mate, an elderly lady, on a plane from New York to San Francisco. Non stop talking, the elderly lady can't get away fast enough.

Jasmine has become penniless, even though she flew First Class and has expensive luggage and wears Chanel clothing. Her husband, a Bernie Maddoff take-off played by Alec Baldwin, has died and all their money is gone. Jasmine completely deconstructs,comes apart at the seams. Her medicine she calls Edison, electricity, which means ECT's for Bi-Polar. We have no idea if she is taking any medicine other than Xanax and Vodka, but we bet not.

Sister, Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, is generous in spirit and tries her best to help Jasmine. Ginger bags groceries, takes care of her two boys, and loves her new boyfriend, played by Bobby Connavale. Each and every performance in this film is top notch, but, no one can compare to Care Blanchette. She takes this role and leaves everyone else in the dust. I was mesmerized by her performance, as is everyone who sees this film.

This film is true life, everyone around Jasmine is reaching out to her, but Jasmine has her sights set on something big, something to help her forget her philandering husband who embarrassed her so. Jasmine has no real skills to get back to, no profession to fall back on, just her sister who is part of the working class, from which Jasmine wants to escape.
A bravura performance that will sweep all the awards. Cate Blanchette makes Jasmine all too real, her world collapsing, and she has no way to stop it.

Highly Recommended. prisrob 01-21-14
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on March 3, 2014
Cate Blanchett gives an Oscar-worthy performance in this drama by Woody Allen. All the other players did a fine job as well.

The reason I did not give a 5-star rating? Woody is, as usual, out of touch with middle class Americans. I feel like he makes all of his characters who don't live in NYC or have unlimited funds to spend on 'the good life' are treated simplistically and most often depicted as low-class without a cultured bone in their bodies. Even Peter Sarsgaard's character, who had "class" - was totally unrealistic - he was a government employee who is redecorating a huge beautiful home on the ocean and doesn't plan to occupy the house for several years while he lives in Vienna? Give me a government job like that!!!
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on June 5, 2015
I am not a Woody Allen fan at all. In fact I normally stop reading about a movie when I see it from him. But, my wife made me watch this one anyway. And, I liked it a lot. The transformation of Cate Blanchett's character was very moving and funny at times.
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on April 12, 2015
Excellent and beautifully defined performance by CATE BLANCHETT who actually, is the main reason
I bought this movie and frankly is the main reason the movie works. The storyline is a tad uneven and disjointed
and at times, difficult to follow in spots - very talky here and there but then again it's a Woody Allen film.
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