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Sony Pictures // PG-13 // January 21, 2014
List Price: $35.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
The story of Blue Jasmine is in some ways a modern update on the famous play A Streetcar Named Desire. Blue Jasmine has already drawn numerous comparisons to the Tennessee Williams play in this regard. Regardless of whether or not the play was an influence, the intelligent and emotionally resonant writing is amongst Allen's absolute best efforts to date. There is a abundance of rewarding dialogue, characterization, and wit in this latest effort and it can seemingly flow with relative ease through its ingeniously layered story that flashes back: exploring the characters stories in both the past and the present.
The main character of the film, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is accustomed to living a status with an abundance of wealth that she had obtained in her supposed paradise. Yet she loses it all when her enormously rich husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin) is jailed for dealing with illegal money. Jasmine is now homeless and a last resort is to go to her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) for help as she seeks a new beginning in San Francisco. This is quite the situation as Ginger had previously been in a relationship with Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), and it was a relationship which ended badly when both of them lost a fortune that was won when they invested all of their enormous winnings with Jasmine's crook husband.
First and foremost, Blue Jasmine is a film which seeks to explore the character of Jasmine. The character is faced with the distance between her dreams and her current reality. The role is a complex, complicated one with a lot of layers. As the storyline unfolds, the character does as well and everything about the performance by Blanchett aids the characterization that is found in the story and script. Without a doubt, this is one of the best performances of the entire year and certainly one of Blanchett's most impressive moments. Her impeccably nuanced performance brings an incredible depth to the part. She manages to be both nerve-wracking and sympathetic, simultaneously, and deeply so. This is Blanchett at her absolute best.
As the story unfolds, Jasmine seems to teeter back and forth with her attempt to begin anew under the acceptance of her current situation and with holding on to her more glamorous past. The story follows Jasmine's attempts at finding a job and going to school while also addressing the relationship issues between her and her sister, whom were both adopted and not "technically" related as the characters are sure to point out. Jasmine is also a vocal critic of Ginger's romantic relationships and the film explores this issue in both the past and present. In the present Ginger's engaged to Chili (Bobby Cannavale), who is a mechanic, is one that Jasmine quickly frowns on. Despite the issues the two sisters have had together, Ginger seems to want to seek her approval and she becomes drawn to a new man, Al (Louis C.K.) as a lover she meets at a party Jasmine takes her to. Jasmine is hoping to find someone to be with herself, and she may have found a perfect match in the form of Dwight Westlake (Peter Sarsgaard), who is a wealthy diplomat desiring to run as a politician. He's wealthy, handsome, and wants to be with Jasmine. Yet something is still amiss. The film continues to unfold the journey of Jasmine and the plethora of characters that inhabit her world.
The acting from the supporting cast is uniformly impressive throughout. I was really amazed by everyone's contributions. Alec Baldwin is of course perfect at playing the unquestionably slick and ick aspects of his character. Andrew Dice Clay is surprising and sympathetic in his small part that adds a great deal to the storytelling. Sally Hawkins aids the performance of Blanchett and is electrifyingly good with her dynamic part. I would rank the performance shes gives in Blue Jasmine amongst her best. Bobby Cannavale adds a quietly humorous element that is surprisingly effective and when you least expect for it to.
This was a wonderfully produced effort. It has splendid cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe that is vibrant, colorful, and eye-catching while also adding a sense of realism. With production design work by Santo Loquasto, Blue Jasmine manages to also feel true at presenting both the upper class lifestyles and world inhabited by the characters in stages of the film and contrast these moments with the everyday qualities of struggling, middle-class lifestyles that are the present realities for Jasmine and most of the cast of characters. The photography and design work is also aided by the splendid San Francisco locations utilized throughout filming that ultimately adds a sense of authenticity.
There is no doubt that Woody Allen is the maestro of this work of art at each and every corner of the film's production. From the detail and depth of the screenplay to the perfectly realized direction, Blue Jasmine is the work of one of the world's best filmmakers as he is bringing his absolute best to the table in making the film. Besides bringing forth amazing performances from the entire ensemble cast, Allen also manages to delicately pace the film with a sense of believability and character fantasy. And it manages to all happen within the framework of a relatively brief 98 minute run-time. Add in the final touch of some of Woody's favorite jazz pieces for the accompanying soundtrack and you have a dynamite film that is simultaneously thoughtful, dark, and fascinating from beginning to end.
Blue Jasmine is presented on Blu-ray in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 with a 1080p High Definition MPEG-4 AVC encode that presents the work with high bit-rates, splendid depth, and good color reproduction. The cinematography is beautifully rendered with this astonishingly high quality transfer that ranks amongst the best to date for any Woody Allen film released on the format.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has a splendidly rich and detailed lossless encoding that will be satisfactory for audio's most ardent fans. However, the aspect of it being in "surround sound" is somewhat stretching. Woody Allen generally doesn't like surround sound in film and as a result the sound mix crafted sounds more like a stereo mix that only occasionally features some slight surround usage that is altogether minimalistic in implementation. As long as expectations for a surround experience are kept in check the lossless audio boost is dynamic and should sound more than satisfactory for Blue Jasmine.
This release contains two main supplements: Notes from the Red Carpet is a short featurette offering interviews with cast members and a Blue Jasmine Cast Press Conference offers up something a bit more in-depth with a discussion with some of the cast members, including Blanchett and Sarsgaard.
This release also contains a Digital HD Ultraviolet digital copy that can be streamed or downloaded.
Blue Jasmine is one of the best films of the year. If you consider yourself a fan of great cinema this is an amazingly realized work of art that is absolutely worth your time. It is easily one of Woody Allen's best films to date (which is really saying something quite remarkable as I'd estimate most of his output as being brilliant).
The performance by Cate Blanchett is amazing and should make her a surefire contender to win the Best Actress award at the Academy Awards this year. Blanchett has already won a Best Actress award for playing the part from the Golden Globes and she seems likely to win again with the Academy voters. Blue Jasmine represents remarkable work from everyone involved and it's an undeniably emotionally resonant film. Filmgoers who enjoy fine storytelling and craft will find something special to appreciate about this intelligent effort that is first-rate in every regard.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.