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Hello, Mr. Woody Allen, you came to make sure that my summer ended on a high note. After nearly four months of going to the movies, having to pay an extra few dollars for 3D glasses, dealing with rambunctious crowds and leaving the theaters with migraines, the ever-reliable legendary filmmaker has provided the first breath of fresh air. His latest effort is Blue Jasmine, a film that has all of Allen's talents on display – mixing comedy, romance and heartbreaking drama in such an effortless way. The story is just one of the many strong suits of this film that should be a major player during awards season this winter.
The story centers on Jasmine (or Jeanette) Francis, played by Cate Blanchett. She's a socialite whose life was destroyed when her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for fraud in a Bernie Madoff-type scheme. Now, the only person who can rescue her is her adopted sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who lives in San Francisco. Of course, Sally's life is the complete opposite of everything Jasmine is used to, with a working-class lifestyle and blue-collar boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale).
Jasmine is eventually able to get comfortable in San Francisco. She decides to take computer classes (but only so she can take interior decorating classes online) and meets the wealthy Dwight Lestlake (Peter Sarsgaard), who has political ambitions. This could be the key back to her old, wealthy life, but she's trying too hard to run from the past to make the future work. Her old life is presented as her new life unfolds, revealing pieces of information that makes Jasmine's actions and worries more clear.
Allen again proves that he's one of the best screenwriters in the business with Blue Jasmine, since the comedy is never focused in single moments. Instead, he relies on fabulous running gags throughout the film and it certainly helps that we get to know all these characters fairly quickly. Everything we need to know is introduced quickly, so Allen gets to take advantage of idiosyncrasies as only he can. It ensures that even the supporting players aren't generic characters. There's Jasmine's complete misunderstanding of how to treat Ginger's young boys (highlighted by the priceless scene between her and the kids at a restaurant), Chili's constant crying (which he can't admit to) and Ginger's poor taste in men.
Of course, as the driver of this story, Jasmine is the most well-rounded character of the bunch and probably one of Allen's most memorable leading ladies. Part of it is due to his writing, but it's also because of Blanchett's epic performance. There is just one stunning and convincing monologue delivery after another and the close-ups only better highlight her abilities. This is one of those rare films where I could feel the importance of every lingering shot of the star's face – I knew exactly what Allen and Blanchett were trying to convey with each moment because it's laid bare. We can feel Jasmine's inability to come to terms with reality just by looking at her face.
But it's not just Blanchett that performs so well. As in other films, Allen has managed to gather a great group of supporting players, starting off with Ginger's men. Bobby Cannavale is perfect as Chili, while Andrew Dice Clay gives a surprising performance as Augie, Ginger's ex-husband. Louis C.K. also has a cameo as a man Ginger has a short fling with. Speaking of Ginger, Sally Hawkins also gives a good performance.
Blue Jasmine is A Streetcar Names Desire for the modern world, but put through Allen's unique vision of human relationships. It's a movie that is set at such a fast pace, but never feels rushed. It only feels that way because it's a film that grabs you from the moment the signature Woody Allen credits end and we open on a shot of a plane in flight. Jasmine's new life and old life come to us as a puzzle that's more fun to look at in pieces than finished.