[Screen It]


(2013) (Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins) (PG-13)

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Drama: After her wealthy, cheating husband is sent to prison, a narcissistic socialite moves into her sister's lower middle class apartment and tries to start her life anew.
Jeanette "Jasmine" Francis (CATE BLANCHETT) was once a high-flying socialite of Manhattan thanks to the handsome living earned by her wealthy financier husband, Harold "Hal" Francis (ALEC BALDWIN). Little did she know that not only had he been carrying on various affairs over the years, but he was also bending and ultimately breaking the law in terms of his money dealings. As a result, he went to prison, Jasmine lost everything, and their Harvard son, Danny (ALDEN EHRENEICH), left in a huff.

With no else to turn to, Jasmine arrives in San Francisco to stay with her fellow adopted sister, Ginger (SALLY HAWKINS), a grocery bagger whose home and lifestyle are decidedly well below what Jasmine has been accustomed to. Despite Al squandering the money she and then husband Augie (ANDREW DICE CLAY) won in a lottery years ago, Ginger welcomes her in to her small place where she lives with her two sons and often entertains her current auto mechanic boyfriend, Chili (BOBBY CANNAVALE). Jasmine thinks her sister could do better and has no problem voicing that opinion, especially when intoxicated and popping one Xanax after another.

She eventually but reluctantly gets a receptionist job working for a local dentist, Dr. Flicker (MICHAEL STUHLBARG), all while studying to become an interior designer and hoping to meet a man up to her standards. She believes she finds the right guy in Dwight Westlake (PETER SARSGAARD), a diplomat with political ambitions who she meets at a party where Ginger is similarly swept off her feet by sound engineer Al (LOUIS C.K.). Jasmine believes she's headed back in the right direction of living well, but her drinking, lies and overall mental instability not only threaten that, but also her already tenuous relationship with her sister.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
Say or think what you will about the personal life of Allan Stewart Konigsberg, a.k.a. Woody Allen, but there's no denying he knows a thing or two about making movies. While he might not command Hollywood as he did in the late 1970s and '80s with films such as "Annie Hall," "Manhattan" and "Hannah and Her Sisters," the man is nothing but prolific. In fact, you might call him the Energizer Bunny of moviemaking as he's written and/or directed more than forty feature-length films since his start back in the mid '60s.

Although he occasionally hits slumps both artistically and at the box office, he always makes something of a comeback, surprising viewers, critics and the industry alike with movies such as "Match Point," "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and his biggest hit to date, 2011's "Midnight in Paris." The latter earned him his 22nd and 23rd Oscar nominations (he won for his original screenplay), and while it's still up in the air about whether his latest offering, "Blue Jasmine," will add to his personal nomination and win tally, there's little doubt his lead actress will score big for her performance here.

And that would be none other than Cate Blanchett, no stranger to such award shows, what with four Oscar nominations of her own (with a Best Supporting win for "The Aviator"). While there are still a few months to go in 2013, the Australian born actress might make room on her shelf for her performance as the title character.

She's a New York socialite whose high-flying world is shot down when she discovers her ultra-wealthy financier husband (Alec Baldwin) is cheating on her, while he's also been doing something of Ponzi scheme with their and others' money and goes to prison. That results in Jasmine moving into the apartment of her lower middle class sibling through adoption, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and meeting and having to deal with the various people in her life.

While Allen's screenplay -- like all of the rest of his works -- is original, there's no denying you'll likely see or at least sense some parallels to Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" and its female protagonist, Blanche DuBois, who also spirals downward while staying with her sister in her cramped apartment (that's especially true for those who saw Blanchett play that character on stage a few years back). Others will likely see some Ruth Madoff in her character, what with that real life Manhattan socialite moving in with her own sister after losing her "fabulous" lifestyle following her husband's well-publicized and enormous Ponzi scheme.

That and his protagonist's downward spiral might sound like a fairly depressing way to spend around 100 minutes. Yet, in true Allen fashion, the filmmaker has included enough quirkiness and slight humor (such as the protagonist going on about her troubles to her perplexed young nephews) to make it go down fairly easily.

That being said, it's not his strongest work from a writing (or directing for that matter) standpoint, what with some loose ends tied up too easily and certainly not that believably. Even so, it's certainly more than good enough to hold one's interest, and the back and forth timeline (showing Jasmine then and now) nicely juxtaposes Jasmine's life, and Blanchett further expands that into one of the best performances of the year, if not the past several years.

Supporting performances are pretty much solid across the board, with Hawkins doing a fine job as the put-upon sister who's always lived in the shadow of her fabulous sibling; Andrew Dice Clay surprisingly being good as her ex-husband; Bobby Cannavale as her current and jealous grease monkey boyfriend; and Alec Baldwin who seemingly could play such a rich sleaze in his sleep.

But this is really the Cate Blanchett show, and while another lesser performer easily could have gone overboard with the theatrics, hysteria and bipolar behavior, the actress hits the notes pitch perfectly and could easily have a date with Oscar early next year. "Blue Jasmine" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed August 22, 2013 / Posted August 23, 2013

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