Woody Allen’s BLUE JASMINE (2013) is a mediocre film that’s elevated to “must see” by one stellar performance. As a character loosely based on Ruth Madoff (wife of Ponzi schemer Bernie), Cate Blanchett is pitch-perfect – so much so that she unwittingly calls attention to the weakness of the supporting cast. Either some of the actors were playing broad for comedic purposes, or they’re just not very good. Or both.
Either way, the broadness of the bad acting helps to exacerbate the film’s overall tonal inconsistency. Cate Blanchett is (at times) playing deeply moving tragedy while others around her are playing broad, sitcom-style farce. Sometimes in feels like actors in the same scene are in two entirely different movies. Maybe Allen was trying to make a movie about awkward people behaving awkwardly. If so, he succeeded. If not, his poor casting undermined what will likely be an Oscar-nominated performance.
Despite the nonsense surrounding her, you can’t take away from the brilliance of Cate Blanchett as Jasmine. She flits nervously from scene to scene, unable to relax, because to do so would be to acknowledge that she has nothing left in her life. It’s a moving, believable performance. Alec Baldwin provides able support as her husband, in his usual charming douchebag mode. Pretty much everyone else could be recast, as far as I’m concerned, with the possible exception of Peter Sarsgaard as Jasmine’s post-fall-from-grace beau.
I particularly liked the narrative structure of BLUE JASMINE. Inter-cutting between past and present helped me get into Jasmine’s head, and to develop affection for her before I discovered the extent of her wealth (and criminal complicity) and dismissed the character as just another privileged asshole. This was a perfect example of a director assisting an actor, and making a performance even more powerful. If only he had surrounded her with better, more believable supporting players, not just deft editorial technique.
I saw BLUE JASMINE in DCP at the Angelika Film Center in Lower Manhattan. They really need to renovate that place. No raked seating, terrible eye lines, and shoebox theaters that look like they were built in the ’80s (because they were). And the rumbleeeee of the subway every few minutes as we sit in a creepy, underground bunker for $14. What fun.