From Chicagoist (08/13/13)
I’m a HUGE Woody Allen fan. I’ve seen Hannah And Her Sisters more times than I care to admit, few things make me laugh harder than Love And Death, and I have crazy arguments with myself about which is better—Annie Hall or Manhattan (ahem. It’s Manhattan. NO! It’s Annie Hall!!!).
But based on my reaction to nearly every Allen movie in the last twenty years, you’d never know that. I haven’t liked one of his films since 2005 (Match Point), and I haven’t loved one since 1989 (Crimes And Misdemeanors). And if you were to bring up Midnight In Paris in conversation, you’d think I out and out hated the guy. (The success of that film baffles me! Everything that movie thought it had to say was already said much better by the Woodman himself, nearly 25 years earlier, in The Purple Rose Of Cairo. Go ahead, compare the two. Next to Purple Rose, Midnight In Paris is some weak sauce.)
So you’d have understood my reluctance to see his newest film, Blue Jasmine. I thought I was walking into another forgettable Woody Allen trifle. A light soufflé, if you will. The title had me thinking along the lines of Curse Of The Jade Scorpion. What I got was the most powerful thing he’s done in years.
Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett as a socialite whose recent life crises causes her to head to San Francisco to live and reconnect with her sister (Sally Hawkins). It sounds like typical Allen stuff, and the similarities to A Streetcar Named Desire weren’t promising, but what Allen does with the material and the tremendous risks in tone that he takes are near astounding.
A lot of that is thanks to another amazing performance by Blanchett (and Andrew “the Diceman” Clay is pretty sweet, too), but Woody’s fearless juxtaposition of Blanchett’s self-immolating craziness with breezy comedy is really something to behold. It’s as if one of the characters from Interiors had wandered into Vicky Christina Barcelona or You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger and exposed every emotion and observation in those movies to be trite and false. It’s a self critique that almost makes me want to go back through every recent Woody Allen movie I’d written off and see what I missed.
Blue Jasmine is playing at River East 21, Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema, and Kerasotes Showplace ICON Theater. (It’s also Woody’s first movie in the widescreen format since Manhattan, and it looks terrific. So catch it on the big screen while you can.)Read less