Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Blue Jasmine

More character assassination than character study, Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s mordant takedown of the widowed wife of a disgraced real-estate profiteer and her feeble attempts at rehabilitating her ruined life. As the broke (and broken) Jasmine, Cate Blanchett serves well as an imperious one-time millionaire reduced to popping meds and boarding with her grocery-bagging adopted sister. Dubious scenario aside—and this one is a bit of a tough sell even with the adoption copout—this is some of Allen’s most focused and effective filmmaking in ages, revealing a lighter touch that helps mute many of the director’s familiar shortcomings. Some secondary characters may still seem cobbled together from a few Borscht Belt jokes—Michael Stuhlbarg’s horn-dog dentist, for instance—but others have been elevated by imaginative casting, such as Louis C.K.’s genial turn as one of the biggest assholes in a film littered with them. Indeed, the worst of all may be Jasmine herself, who takes the fall for a self-destructing moneyed elite that has reduced the working class to collateral damage in its own petty games. For once, Allen’s scorn towards his characters feel earned, and he leaves this woman to the mercy of her own memories. She is reduced to a muttering mess of grief and guilt, while everyone around her repeats the useless refrain, “The past is past.” Anyone who has ever held a debt knows better.

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