The Brunette and I wandered over to the local cinema last night to see Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine. Coming off multiple viewings of Midnight in Paris and his brief pokes at the wealthy class in the US, I was ready for a bit of the same. But this film was not so much a joke at the expense of the rich but something much more cruel.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the reviews and the basic story – Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine who plays the Ruth Madoff to Hal’s (Alec Baldwin) Bernie Madoff.  Hal is a real estate investor who constantly wanders off with his advisors to discuss corporate transfers and manipulations and makes promises of 20% annual safe returns to his clients which included Jasmine’s sister, Ginger and her struggling working class husband, Augie. As Madoff went so did Hal with a complete collapse of his empire leaving his investors dry of life savings including Augie who had won $200,000 in the lottery and came to Hal for business advice.

There is allusion in the reviews to A Streetcar Named Desire and rightly so but not necessary to enjoy the film.  Jasmine has taken a great fall from wealth and lives in the past glory that she once enjoyed. She is so connected to that former life that she is constantly lost in the past while living in the present and often found reliving that life audibly on the street. She sinks deeper and deeper into denial until you realize how seriously ill she is. She is one step short of that homeless woman you avoid on the street but now dressed in designer clothes.

You begin to hope for salvation for her and even when she is offered that chance in a new relationship with a Washington diplomat and political hopeful, rather than tell the truth, she weaves even greater lies into her story.  But then there is that inevitable moment when she is forced into confronting that past when she and her new boyfriend-about-to-be-fiancé run into her ex-brother-in-law Augie in a bitter exchange.

But there is one more revelation to come that will leave the audience with a collective groan. From there, the fall speeds up.

The film itself is good and Cate Blanchett is excellent. She is wonderful in the role as she delivers her story that is beautifully enhanced by her physical interpretation. She wears no masks in this film – her denial, illness, and fear is worn quite openly and she is not afraid to express it. Bobby Canavale also offers an excellent role as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili. There is one scene where he confront Ginger on her affair with another man and he looks as if he’ll turn into Gyp Rosetti any moment. But he doesn’t – Allen is not that kind of director. His violence in this movie is emotional not physical.

It’s a movie worth seeing. But don’t expect a typical Woody Allen film. And skip the popcorn – you won’t need the distraction.

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