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Movie Review: Blue Jasmine

Aug 082013
 By , August 8, 2013

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine — a film review by Gary Chew

The exigencies associated with love and class continue to be magnified in the oeuvre of Woody Allen — except when he’s playing clarinet. Insofar as film is concerned though, Allen is at his best when making you heartily laugh while you’re trying to repress any empathy you’re feeling for one of his many memorable, hapless characters. The hapless character in “Blue Jasmine,” his latest, is named Jasmine, played by the supremely gifted actor, Cate Blanchett.

Blue jasmine

Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine.”

And it’s not just because most of the film is shot in the Bay Area that Jasmine’s predicament plays out on more shaky ground than, say, of Alvy Singer’s, Annie Hall’s and so on. What’s funny about “Blue Jasmine” isn’t so much Jasmine’s character, but most of the other roles that must be played as “real” characters … who surround the unstable Jasmine and the disassembling of her life as currently lived. Blanchett does Jasmine situated among a cast of other fine actors — all looking as if only they were meant to play their respective, zany parts.

If you sense anything autobiographical in the picture, it might be you’re thinking that Woody “knows the ropes” of such circumstances.

There’s much time-switching going on in “Blue Jasmine.” The back and forth is keenly presented so as not to confuse. Segues are usually triggered by spoken words of dialogue.

blue jasmine

Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett.

So that means you see Alec Baldwin as Jasmine’s wealthy husband, Hal, throughout the movie, even though Hal has long been hauled to the joint for shoddy business practices with even further events that would be a spoiler if I told you. The same goes for other of Allen’s well-drawn characters.

One of my favorites in this category is stand-up comic, Andrew Dice Clay as Augie. He’s the man in Ginger’s life, early on. British actor Sally Hawkins (“Never Let Me Go”) is mind-boggling playing Ginger. You’d swear she’s from Hoboken. She’s a couple of cuts, at least, beneath Jasmine in social status. These gals’ differences are as distinct as Sausalito and Fresno’s.

When Jasmine’s high-living style crashes and burns on the East Coast, she moves in with sweet Ginger (they’re non biological sisters of the same family) on the West Coast. San Francisco is the town — Allen not being a big fan of Los Angeles. It’s in the Bay Area where most of the class conflict takes place between Jasmine and Ginger with her California associates.

After Hal, Jasmine is determined to make something of herself, but things aren’t looking too rosy; especially after she takes a receptionist job with a square but horny dentist who hits on her when no patients are in the office. Michael Stuhlbarg has that role and was the lead in the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man.”

Jasmine’s a wreck. Pills and alcohol are much in use. Panic attacks are not uncommon. Talking to herself is not unheard of in her presence or even when she’s alone. Blanchett has nailed the character. But what can one expect from an actor of Cate’s caliber who, not long ago, cross-gendered to do a great “Bob Dylan” in “I’m Not There.”

Blue Jasmine

Sally Hawkins and Louis C.K.

Another not unusual suspect in “Blue Jasmine” is Peter Sarsgaard (“An Education”) as Dwight, a Bay Area yuppie who has a cushy government gig in D.C. He’s planning to run for national office from the Golden State and parks his BMW next to his bay side house in Marin.

No class warfare here. Dwight looks like “new spouse” material for Jasmine. Surely, this can’t be in a script by Woody Allen.

What — a happy ending? Are you kidding? But you will be laughing.

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Gary Chew was a classical music host, programmer and producer on Capital Public Radio’s KXPR 88.9FM, Sacramento for 18 years. He retired in January 2007. Read more about Gary's long and storied career here.

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