Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Man on Film: Blue Jasmine

Here is another old entry with Oscar implications.

To say I've been very bad at keeping up with these entries would be a vast understatement. To put it into perspective, I am twenty-three--yes, two-three--entries behind, most of them being Man on Film entries. I hope to catch up on them in the coming weeks, so while there may not seem to be a rhyme or reason to why I choose what I choose, I can tell you right now that I'm choosing Blue Jasmine because it might just be the best film I've seen this year. And yes, I did see Gravity.

To say Blue Jasmine is good Woody Allen would be a gross understatement. Even when he's been great over the past 20 years or so, it hasn't always felt that Allen was working outside of himself very much. Midnight in Paris and Sweet and Lowdown were great films, but they definitely shared quite a few commonalities with his pre-existing body of work. For the first time in decades, Woody Allen has made a film that doesn't feel like a Woody Allen film.

Yes, the dialogue is still strong and snappy, but this isn't the signature--or in worse cases (I'm looking at you, To Rome with Love), self-parodying--dialogue to which we have become accustomed. The narrative is psychologically complex, structurally nimble, and most importantly breaks from the handful of boilerplate stories Allen routinely falls back upon. Quite frankly, Blue Jasmine is far from what we expect to see from a Woody Allen film, and it's shockingly refreshing.

Much has been made of the performances in the film, and that hubbub is largely justified. Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins are particularly great with Blanchett's performance being enough to carry the film regardless of what the other actors did, but with the rest of the cast being superlative, Blue Jasmine is simply stunning. Even in light of the recent big hit Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine wastes little time distinguishing itself from the rest of Allen's curriculum vitae as a standout achievement, and by the time it gets to its conclusion you're shocked that he was even its auteur.

That's a good thing.

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