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Movie review: Blue Jasmine

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It would be wise for Cate Blanchett to keep the morning of January 16 open. The 2014 Academy Awards nominations will be announced that day and she's going to get a Best Actress nod for her work in Woody Allen's A Streetcar Named Desire-ish film, Blue Jasmine.

Jasmine is a good movie, one of Allen's best in years, but the draw here is Blanchett, whose performance takes an off-putting character and makes her surprisingly, um ... not quite on-putting, but riveting, definitely riveting, which is better than any of the myriad forms of putting.

Jasmine (Blanchett) lived in New York and had it all, until her husband (Alec Baldwin) was arrested by the feds for swindling on a massive scale and everything was taken away. Now, she doesn't even have her husband; he stared at his future and then hung himself. So Jasmine reluctantly heads for San Francisco and the home of her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), which is below her station, but given her current circumstances, what's a person to do?

Ginger's life is almost as appalling to Jasmine as her residence. Her current thuggish boyfriend, Chili (Bonny Cannavale) is nearly as vulgar as Ginger's abusive ex-husband, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), whose nest egg was taken by Jasmine's dead ex.

It's all so demeaning for Jasmine. She's a woman clearly made to hob nob with attractive, wry, intellectual New Yorkers in a Woody Allen movie, and not to be forced to depend on the kindness of ethnic types and the hoi polloi. She's even going to have to find work - and what kind of a job can she hope to get after years of being "trophy wife to a crook?"

Jasmine is just as condescending as I've made her sound, and she verbalizes her disdain all the time, often talking to strangers or herself when someone she knows isn't handy. So why do these people put up with Jasmine? Why do we put up with her? Because of Cate Blanchett and what she does with the character.

As maddening as Jasmine is, she is clearly wounded and striking out from a fragile state. Further, she is a curiosity - an individual willing to insult you to your face even as you are offering her support. For some of the cast, there is obviously something invigorating about dealing with this aggressive-aggressive personality type from Upper Crustville.

The excellent cast also includes the wonderful Louis C.K., doing his best with a woefully underwritten part, and Peter Sarsgaard, gauzy and pleasantly ruthless as a potential love interest/deus ex machina for Jasmine if only she weren't the person she is.

I don't know why Woody Allen opted to introduce a Blanche DuBois to deal with two Stanley Kowalskis. But the dynamic works, as does this dark, sporadically funny, but mostly sad portrait of somebody we should find too annoying and self-absorbed to be interesting. But we don't and she isn't and thanks for that, Cate.

Related Film

Blue Jasmine

Official Site: www.sonyclassics.com/bluejasmine

Director: Woody Allen

Writer: Woody Allen

Cast: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alden Ehrenreich and Charlie Tahan

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