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Blanchett amazing in ‘Blue Jasmine’

8/29/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin star in “Blue Jasmine.”
Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Jasmine, in the mesmerizing new Woody Allen movie “Blue Jasmine,” is a fish out of water, the kind of fish you’d want to throw back. No longer able to live the life of a New York socialite, she gets by with the help of people she once barely acknowledged. She does little to hide her disdain, caring nothing about the negative effect she has on others. She claims to have an affinity for interior decorating, but, by all indications, the best thing she can do to improve a room is to leave it.

Cate Blanchett gives a stunning performance as Jasmine, a woman who becomes increasingly unbalanced as her life spins out of control. Her mood is determined by how well her support system — pills and delusional thinking — are working for her, and they’re usually not up to the task. She’s easily flustered and prone to talking to people not present, holding conversations with those long gone from her life.

Among the departed is Hal (Alec Baldwin), who was her slick wheeler-dealer husband. A Wall Street bigwig in the Bernie Madoff mold, he once gave Jasmine everything (except his fidelity) but is now only a memory — as is his bank account. Jasmine, penniless but still flying first class, travels to San Francisco to live in the cramped apartment of her divorced sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). All they’ll have in common is an address.

Jasmine feels everything in her new life is below her standards, and that includes Ginger’s blue-collar fiancé, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). The movie is primarily a character study of Jasmine, but Allen doesn’t neglect the relationship of Ginger and the hot-headed Chili, which becomes more interesting when a sweet fellow named Al (Louis C.K.) enters the picture.

We also meet Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie, played very effectively by Andrew Dice Clay. In a flashback, we see Hal and Jasmine welcome — with arms not entirely open — Augie and Ginger to their home. Jasmine, who changed her name from something less exotic, has no interest in members of the 99 percent, except to throw a little charity their way. But to her credit, she’s consistent. She won’t have interest in the 99 percenters when she’s a part of them, either.

Jasmine’s character is an homage to Blanche Dubois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a conclusion I’ll base on the 189,000 results that came up when I Googled “Blue Jasmine” and “Streetcar.” I’ve never seen the play (though I’ve seen the hilarious “Simpsons” episode with the “Streetcar” musical), so my appreciation of the movie has nothing to do with how well Blanchett’s acting or Allen’s writing channels Dubois. All I know is that Allen and Blanchett combine to create a memorable character, one that would be exasperating in real life but is fascinating on the big screen.

The film, currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.

Four Stars (out of four)

 

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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