Sunday, December 15, 2013

Film Review: Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine

For approximately a quarter of century now, with the release of each new Woody Allen film (and there is usually one a year) critics invariably say one of two things.  Either it is a return to form for the director or it is a lament for the past, far superior filmmaker of the 1970's and 1980's.  In my wish to break such silly tradition, I propose that his latest, Blue Jasmine, is neither a return to form, nor is it something that makes us yearn for the days of Annie Hall or Manhattan.  Let's face it, the director would be quite hard-pressed to match such aforementioned films as these, and we shouldn't keep expecting him to get back to such greatness, nor should we feel so disappointed when he does not.   Sure, the writer-director's output is much more hit-and-miss these days than it was in the so-called olden days, but through the muck of such disasters as Scoop and/or Anything Else, the guy can still make one hell of a movie.

What Blue Jasmine is, is a Woody Allen film, better than some, worse than others, but still a strong and charming film, full of the wry sense of humour that we have come to expect from a Woody Allen film, as well as a deeper and darker undercurrent running through its belly, finally rearing its full form in that harrowing finale, that stands on its own, without need of comparison to the director's past oeuvre.  With that said, I would like to add that even though Allen's new film may not be able to compare to the likes of the filmmaker's golden streak of the past (in this critic's mind, from 1977 through 1995, a streak of nineteen films, Allen made not a single dud) it is easily one of the best he has made since those days, as well as one of the best films of 2013.  Oh well, I guess I kinda just did the very thing I claimed I did not want to do.  Oh well.  Let's move on anyway, for I must let you in on the greatness  that is Blue Jasmine - somewhat surprisingly so, considering the cool reception I had to Allen's last film, and my belief in the overpraising of the one before that.

What Woody Allen does best, other than writing a damn smart comedy (a few damn smart dramas as well), is elicit some damn fine performances out of his stars - something he does once again in Blue Jasmine.  Cate Blanchett, as atypically self-absorbed Allen leading lady, has been getting kudos upon kudos ever since the film first opened, and on top of all this, award accolades and chants of the actor's second Oscar have spewed from almost every Academy Award pundant out there.  Even many of those who dislike the film (and some do quite hate the thing) still praise Blanchett's work in said film.  Her ability to make her audience laugh and cry in one single scene, sometimes in one single take or shot, is quite astounding indeed.  Not many actors can pull off such a feat, and Blanchett does it time and time again in Blue Jasmine.  Of course, we should not, in our praise for Blanchett, forget the great supporting performance handed in by Sally Hawkins as Blanchett's sister in the film.  These two performances shine through and deserve the accolades they are receiving, but at the same time, we should not forget that Woody Allen (here we go) has seemed to returned to form in his latest film.  Well, yeah, I couldn't go the whole time without saying that, now could I?  Seriously though, Blue Jasmine, with its inherent wit and witticisms, is one of Allen's better works, and deserves to be included, if not in his golden first tier, then in his strong and charming second one for sure.

This review can also be read over at my film site, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.

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