Film Review: Blue Jasmine



   The funniest aspect of the recent career of Woody Allen has been the "return-to-form" label which is applied to each new film he releases before high praise is slowly withdrawn - from Cassandra's Dream to Match Point and Scoop, critics fall over each other to laud the latest release from the diminutive New Yorker before realising... perhaps the work ain't much cop after all?

   If, in the cold light of day, it's accepted that Allen's filmography is, as his biggest fan would agree, "patchy" or, as those less willing to indulge the director, sub-standard - surely his "form", his "consistency" ain't all that. As such, those who report on Allen's latest "returns-to-form" are usually inaccurate on at least two accounts.

   Blue Jasmine, then, is not so much a return to form for Allen but, simply, a continuation of the form he's displayed throughout his career. As a director, Allen is capable of pointing the camera at the character who is taking a turn at speaking but little beyond that. He's negligent to a degree which would be labelled amateurish or lazy were another name present in the movies' credits - it makes one wonder why his involvement in cinema extends beyond (or even to) screen-writing. Perhaps he finds catharsis in the process of film-making (rather than in the end product), but the haphazard and sloppy, clumsily plotted feature Allen has put his name to suggests that, perhaps at last, it's time to put the typewriter away once and for all.

   Cate Blanchett stars as the titular Jasmine, a fictitious version of the Queen of Versailles (or a retake of Blanche Dubois depending on one's perspecitve), a woman who lost everything in the global economic crash - her philandering husband (Alec Baldwin) faces jail due to his involvement into white collar crime and, as such, Jasmine leaves the high society of New York to spends the film's running time verging on complete emotional collapse living with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Fransisco. In order to escape her fate, Jasmine decides to try and find herself a new partner who can support her financially in the way her husband used to and targets Peter Sarsgard. There aren't characters in the film per se, but rather avatars on whom to hang plot device.  The working classes are goombahs and the rich billow and flounce - there's not an ounce of soul on display. Nothing much happens either with the exception of Jasmine's increasing bitterness towards her hosts - something mirrored by my own increasing bitterness to Blue Jasmine.

   It's very difficult to imagine why this movie exists. Over the course of the film, Allen touches fleetingly on the issues of class, corporate crime and even mothering, yet he, and the character's he gives voice to, have little or nothing to say in the way of insight - the script feels like a first draft, and an unfinished one at that. On top of this, Blue Jasmine feels like at least the tenth time Allen has made this film (albeit with different titles) such is the stasis his career has entered. There's a dispiriting feel of over-recycling here and one wonders if time would be better spent re-watching Hannah and her Sisters than wasting energy with this sub-par remake.

   The saying that unless we learn from history we are doomed to make the same mistakes applies perfectly to the filmography of Allen - as with all reviews, we should learn not to rush to praise (or damn) them simply because of who the creator is or we'll fear repenting in leisure. Judged by the standards of Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine is a fantastic example of his form; judged on an objective level, this is a flat, weary movie, a tiresome bore.
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