Blue Jasmine ReviewAugust 9, 2013
A magnetic performance by Cate Blanchett and some genuinely funny moments don’t make up for the fact that Blue Jasmine is excruciatingly boring, moronic and aimless.
Woody Allen is one of the oldest talents working in Hollywood today, and also one of the most productive, considering that he is releasing a new film every single year. However, this insane pace at which he seems to be working is obviously working for him since a good majority of his recent films have been positively received – particularly Midnight in Paris, which won him his second Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. With Blue Jasmine, can Woody Allen once again prove that despite his age and the rapid pace at which we works, he can churn out some truly fantastic work?
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) was once a wealthy New York socialite, until she discovered that her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was involved in very shady business dealings and countless affairs. Now that her life has essentially fallen apart, the now single and broke Jasmine decides to move to San Francisco to live with her working class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). After moving in, she then decides to make an effort to educate herself, find work and then hopefully work her way back into social stability.
Many are touting this as one of Allen’s best films in recent memory, especially since it takes a much darker route than his other work. However, I completely disagree with that assertion. While I have only seen a few Woody Allen films, this is certainly a very weak one, for a number of reasons. The main thing is that Blue Jasmine feels completely jumbled, and that factors into every single problem with the story. Firstly, tonal imbalance pervades the entire picture – in other words, it does not know whether it wants to be a dark comedy or tough existential drama.
The comedy doesn’t work since the dialogue simply isn’t funny, and the drama fails since the characters are absolutely moronic. Even then, the characters are basically developed from the start, so that was also problematic for the dramatic scenes as well. I can also understand why Allen would choose to use nonlinear editing and flashbacks to tell his story, but it sadly makes the film feel very disjointed. Not only that, the film is repetitive and extremely boring; I shouldn’t feel like I am sitting still for three hours when the film is actually a little over 90 minutes long.
Other than those major problems, the film is simply aimless – Blue Jasmine is one of those films that could have had plenty of potential, but it ultimately resulted in a project that was thrown together without much passion. Considering how talented Woody Allen is, it’s a great disappointment how empty this story is even if there a few funny moments here and there.
I cannot deny that Cate Blanchett is fantastic, because she is. That may have been obvious since she is a marvel in any project she is attached to, but she is still hauntingly good in the main role. She hits just about every beat that Woody Allen lays out for her, even if its unclear whether or not some of her lines were meant to be comical. Nonetheless, for what she is asked to do in Blue Jasmine, Blanchett succeeds at everything quite wonderfully. Where comedy is concerned, Sally Hawkins strikes the right chords as Jasmine’s sister. Hawkins is unique in that she layers both comedy (when it’s there) and drama onto her performance, and with that she hits the exact right tone that every actor in this ensemble should have lived up to. Blanchett may be fantastic, but she is mainly successful at the haunting tragedy of her character, not anything comic. The rest of the cast fails to live up to their potential, although I think Allen’s writing lets them down. Most of the comedians in the cast fall flat on their face here, especially Michael Stuhlbarg in a role as a dentist Cate Blanchett’s character works for. Louis C.K. has some of the funniest scenes in the entire film, but sadly he is only in it for a miniscule amount of time, so Blue Jasmine’s greatest comedic asset is wasted here.
Blue Jasmine looks very good, I cannot deny that. Allen manages to capture some beautiful images of both San Francisco and New York with the clarity of a project filmed by Roger Deakins, and it’s also neat how the camera meanders throughout the film’s sets. Still, I just wish that the cinematography could have been more effective towards giving us insights into the characters, even if there are some very effective close-ups of Blanchett’s face at times. As I had previously noted the editing creates many problems for the narrative and pacing, but the music also proves problematic for Blue Jasmine’s tone as well. While the film’s soft jazz – signature for a Woody Allen film – is quite pleasant, it upsets the film’s tone, particularly the dramatic sequences. As a result, the ending feels a lot more awkward than it should have.
I really can’t understand why other critics haven’t noticed the issues of Blue Jasmine. While Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins are mesmerizing leads, this film is overly boring, tonally inconsistent and is quite empty otherwise. Perhaps some others will learn from this drama about social classes, but I found the experience empty, disjointed and boring. There is more wealth to be found in not spending money for a ticket to this disappointment.