Review: Blue Jasmine (Allen, 2013)

Still from the movie Blue Jasmine

I am an avowed hater of Woody Allen movies–at least of the ones I’ve seen (Midnight in ParisVicky Cristina BarcelonaMatch PointMelinda and MelindaCrimes and Misdemeanors). I’ve yet to watch one I would recommend to someone else. Typically, I find his films populated with irredeemably despicable people, his dialogue overwrought and unfunny, his plot lines obvious, his insights heavy-handed. I’ve seen many a good actor turn suddenly bad under his direction (except for the estimable Will Ferrell in Melinda and Melinda, who he could not ruin), and yet the good actors keep flocking to him. I know I’m missing something that others can see, but no one’s yet been able to convince me. Let that serve as a fair warning to take this review with a grain of salt, especially if you’re a Woody Allen fan. (Note: I admit I’ve mostly seen his recent films, and I need to watch his older ones before I completely settle into my judgment.)

The movie had all the trappings of a typical Woody Allen film: loud, hateful characters, lots of shouting, callousness, petty and vindictive acts, theater-type acting, predictable Woody Allen ending. Set in San Francisco, Allen did nothing to capture the local character of the place. It felt like New York with a different backdrop. Maybe it was the same for Paris and Barcelona and London in his other movies, but I didn’t notice because I don’t live there. “Whatever,” his fans (including my husband) will tell me. “Woody Allen movies are Woody Allen movies. That’s just how they are. It’s what people want when they see a Woody Allen movie. His films have their own style.” All right, all right. Enough bashing.

The reason I even watched the film was to see Cate Blanchett‘s performance, and in that respect it did not disappoint. She is highly favored to win the Oscar for Best Actress, though some ask whether the recent Woody Allen scandal could ruin her chances. I thought her performance was flawless, especially considering the difficult material she had to work with. I don’t mean that the role was that much more complex than others but that it could have easily been over-acted, and she didn’t. She made Jasmine believable, even if she didn’t make her likable (which I don’t think was ever the goal).

Watch Blue Jasmine for Blanchett’s performance. Otherwise, it’s as skippable as Allen’s other (recent) movies. (See Stand By for Mind Control’s excellent review, if you don’t mind spoilers. I wholeheartedly agree with reviewer Sean McPharlin!)