'Mission: Impossible -- Rogue Nation' and 'The End of the Tour': Tom Cruise Blockbusts Again, and Jason Segel Gives the Performance of His Career As the Late David Foster Wallace Like the four previous "Mission: Impossible" movies, "Rogue Nation" is a precision-tooled action gizmo made by talented people who still take professional pride in turning this sort of thing out. They know they have to deliver automotive mayhem, but …Read more. 'Listen to Me Marlon': Marlon Brando in His Own Words "Listen to Me Marlon" is a haunting documentary about a haunted man. British director Stevan Riley was approached by the estate of the late Marlon Brando and given access to more than 200 audiotapes the actor had recorded over the course of his long …Read more. 'Southpaw': Jake Gyllenhaal Gets in the Ring for a Fierce but Flawed Boxing Film "Southpaw" may not be a movie you want to go 12 rounds with. The picture inevitably recalls Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull," as well as a number of other boxing movies, reaching back to the old Wallace Beery-Jackie Cooper heart walloper, "The Champ."…Read more. 'Trainwreck' and 'Ant-Man': Amy Schumer Kills It in Her Big-Screen Debut, and Paul Rudd Stands Small in an Uneven Marvel Super-Movie In "Trainwreck," TV phenom Amy Schumer gets her Hollywood close-up, and she's ready for it. The movie is a romantic comedy in the early Judd Apatow mode, by turns raunchy and sweet. But director Apatow seems refreshed by a relocation from his …Read more.more articles
'Blue Jasmine': Cate Blanchett Lights Up a Very Surprising Woody Allen Movie
"Blue Jasmine" is certainly one of the most arresting of Woody Allen's late-career escape-from-New-York movies. It has the shape of a comedy, and it's often very funny; but as the story proceeds, we come to realize that its protagonist, the titular Jasmine, is someone we can't bear to keep laughing at. Lurching through the film in a haze of delusion and desperation, barely maintaining on a diet of Xanax and vodka, Jasmine is one of Allen's most harrowing characters; and in bringing her to life on the screen, Cate Blanchett gives a performance that pivots from frazzled to doom-ridden and back with a virtuosa's ease.
The story is a retooling of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire." Blanchett's Jasmine is a self-coddling New York society matron whose life of hermetic luxury — the vast Park Avenue apartment, the beachfront Hamptons estate, the pressing question of whether or not to buy a private jet — has been provided by her husband, a Wall Street investment hustler named Hal (played by Alec Baldwin, a master of all things slick and sketchy). When Hal is busted for fraud and sent to prison, the Internal Revenue Service swoops in to confiscate his every asset, leaving Jasmine, a woman with no discernible skill sets, unmoored.
Sort of homeless, she flees to San Francisco to impose upon the blue-collar hospitality of her cheery sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins, entirely lovable). This relationship feels forced. Jasmine and Ginger have no blood connection — they were separately adopted by their parents — but that doesn't entirely explain how they turned out to be such polar-opposite individuals. Ginger, a lowly grocery clerk, is all heart, whereas Jasmine, for whom the concept of work is mostly a rumor, is all id and very little else.
Jasmine's decision to seek shelter with her sister is an especially impudent move. It was Jasmine who encouraged Ginger's husband, Augie (an affecting Andrew Dice Clay), to invest their family nest egg in one of Hal's shady business deals; after the money vanished, Ginger's marriage collapsed.
As the story advances, Allen uses frequent flashbacks to Jasmine's New York life to illuminate her fish-out-of-water floundering in San Francisco. The social instruction he seeks to impart is a shopworn cliché: The glittery rich can be immoral monsters, whereas working-class folks, with their simple beer-centered pleasures, are the salt of the earth. Still, his witty script mines steady laughter from Jasmine's incessant bumblings. Uncertain whether to become an anthropologist or an interior decorator, she takes a job as a receptionist with an amorous dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg in a too-small role) and then hooks up with a more promising meal ticket, a monumentally smarmy young diplomat named Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). Can Jasmine's wreck of a life be salvaged? Will Woody Allen allow it?
Although the cast is a dream assemblage (not the least of which includes Louis C.K. as a jovial sound engineer putting the moves on Ginger), Blanchett is all the reason anyone might need to see this movie. Giving voice to Jasmine's internal chaos in extended arias of jibbering delusion, she's a wonder to behold. But the picture is fatally undermined by the icy detachment with which Allen observes her pained incomprehension — because Jasmine isn't just a spoiled brat getting a comical comeuppance; she's a real victim, apparently of bipolar disorder. (She already has done time in a sanitarium and weathered electroconvulsive therapy, to no avail.) If this were a real comedy — which, in the end, it's decidedly not — we could enjoy her learning of long-delayed life lessons. But it's not reality therapy that Jasmine needs; it's professional help, which might not be enough in any case. Allen the writer extends her no helping hand, and our laughter dribbles away. The movie's devastating final scene chills us to the bone.
Kurt Loder is the film critic for Reason Online. To find out more about Kurt Loder and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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