By the time Blue Jasmine comes to its conclusion, you ask yourself what will become of its ranting, depressed, unpleasant lead character. You wonder if she is going to become the proverbial crazy cat lady - without the cat, though - or if the future holds something better for her. This being a Woody Allen, though, and the writer/director having given a wide berth to his most bitter and disillusioned instincts in much of his latest work, I wouldn't necessarily hold out for a happy post-ending. Cate Blanchett's Jasmine, a disgraced New York socialite forced to downsize her life of luxury after her husband (Alec Baldwin, seen only in flashbacks) is outed as a high-end crook, has a hard time engaging with reality anyway. She much prefers to live inside her cocoon of gilded memories, even though she may be lying to herself as she did for so long in order to fake a happiness entirely dependent on material possessions.

     But, magically, Ms. Blanchett's nuanced performance and Mr. Allen's attention to it bring out something else in Jasmine than merely a nasty, aloof social climber biding her time to find a new on-ramp to the fast lane. There's a cluelessness matched with a desperation, a panicked fear of loneliness, a wide-eyed innocence reflexting someone who has never truly had to do anything for herself. That intense humanity redeems Blue Jasmine's muddled, nastier edges, ones Mr. Allen has given free rein recently in works such as Cassandra's Dream or You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. The setting here is San Francisco, where the needy Jasmine has relocated to live at her half-sister Ginger's (Sally Hawkins) place while she gets back on track and where most of the passive-aggressive fights they have with each other and with Ginger's boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) happen.

     The opposition between facade and reality, wealth and poverty, may be (is) somewhat cliched but it's hard not to look at Blue Jasmine as the modern-day equivalent of a Depression-era comedy laced with bile, its topical social comment being somewhat unusual for what Mr. Allen usually offers us. And, despite Ms. Blanchett's performance and the always great Ms. Hawkins, there's also a sense the film is less than the sum of its parts, prolonging the idea that the director's later work has really become a connect-the-dots formula freshened by elements specific to each film. Still, there's that performance, and the realisation that Jasmine, née Jeannette, is not a cartoon villainess but a complex, confused human being who took a series of wrong turns, and the film does right by her.

Cast: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Louis C. K., Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg
Director and writer: Woody Allen
Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe  (colour, widescreen)
Designer: Santo Loquasto
Costumes: Suzy Benzinger
Editor: Alicia Lepselter
Producers: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson  (Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions)
USA, 2013, 98 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 14 (Lisbon), August 22nd 2013

Winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Actress (Cate Blanchett)
Nominated for two other Academy Awards (Best Supporting Actress - Sally Hawkins; Best Original Screenplay)


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