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Cate Blanchett is “Blue Jasmine”


(Moviefone)

(Moviefone)

Many things can draw an audience to a particular film. An up-and-coming director or writer. A beloved star. An interesting plot. Rarely, though, a performance stands as the main appeal. Woody Allen’s new comedic drama “Blue Jasmine” showcases such a performance from Cate Blanchett as the delusional, mentally/emotionally unstable Jasmine.

You simultaneously sit in awe of Jasmine’s grace and cringe in disgust at her hubris.  “Jasmine” follows its titular character’s fall from this grace. A mental breakdown that left her rambling in the streets of New York has permanently displaced her sense of reality. As Jasmine’s state of mind deteriorates, Blanchett’s deep blue eyes nervously dart back and forth; her hands cradle her shaking body in a form of subtle comfort that drowns under the wave of anxiety. Now poor and homeless, Jasmine has nowhere to turn but her plain sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in San Francisco.

B-Moments of clarity occur only when criticizing Ginger’s romantic involvements or promoting her own goals for the future. The beauty of Blanchett’s performance—and Allen’s writing—is the contradictory emotions evoked from Jasmine’s personality. She is a woman that clearly needs professional help. Her neuroses ebb and flow with her vodka coated Xanax, moving from one valley of depression to the next. You pity this individual who has fallen on hard times. The film even points out the thoughts going through our minds: wouldn’t you take advantage of immense wealth if in a similar situation?

Maybe so, but many of us would not turn a blind eye to illegal activities and adulterous significant others. Herein lies the problem with Jasmine. She is, at her core, a detestable, selfish person. Her tragic story begins to take on an air of retribution for past misdeeds. As the film moves along, introducing new, seemingly stable characters in the form of Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard, Jasmine’s infinite selfishness takes center stage before another valley of depravity.

When the film comes to a screeching halt, you are left wondering if there is any hope for this woman. She destroys relationships around her and continues living in a world of her own creation. Blanchett embodies this instability from start to finish.

Unfortunately, “Jasmine” gives a lack of conviction on Allen’s part. Is he attempting to make a statement about the idea that men—both rich and poor—can be good or bad? Is he showing how the mantra of “ignorance is bliss” permeates all levels of society? Using a delusional character as the protagonist adds to this confusion since she cannot find a steady mindset or make a firm decision at any moment throughout the film.

Cate Blanchett is “Blue Jasmine” and any actresses in 2013 best look to 2014 for their chance at an Oscar. She carries an otherwise lackluster showing for Woody Allen’s resume.

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