Though he remains an all-time favorite, I try to keep my expectations firmly clamped down for any new Woody Allen these days: even supposed return-to-form "Midnight in Paris" didn't quite land right with me, so it's best to let the sporadic pleasures of his latter-day work come as pleasant surprises. Yet I've broken protocol and allowed myself to get increasingly excited about his dramedy "Blue Jasmine," which hits theaters on July 26.
There are a couple of reasons for this. Allen's films never want for good actors, of course, yet this one features an ensemble of players I'm particularly keen to see click with his dialogue -- including the wonderful Bobby Cannavale, not to mention more intriguingly offbeat choices like Louis C.K. and (!) Andrew Dice Clay. Also exciting is the prospect of a meaty lead role for Cate Blanchett: the Australian virtuoso has been largely preoccupied with her family and her native theater company for the last few years, making this the first film since 2007's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" to put her front and center. It's about time.
In a related point, not his "Melinda and Melinda" has an Allen film was structured around a solo female protagonist; indeed, bar "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," women have got a pretty bum deal in much of his recent work. But it's a perspective that has brought out the best in his writing in the past -- and the semi-serious premise of "Blue Jasmine," which finds Blanchett's pampered New York trophy wife forced to move to reexamine her life when her husband is arrested for fraud, suggests this could be one to file alongside "Alice" or "Another Woman," two of my favorite (and most undervalued) Allen films. That the film is obviously inspired by the recent Bernie Madoff scandal adds further layers of intrigue.
The ensemble also includes Alec Baldwin (who himself previously starred in "Alice," as well as last year's negligible "To Rome With Love") as the Madoff proxy; as Blanchett's San Francisco-based sister, meanwhile, "Happy-Go-Lucky" star Sally Hawkins looks to have a richer part than she did in Allen's 2007 "Cassandra's Dream." But the trailer suggests this is chiefly a showcase for Blanchett, who looks to be in fine, flinty form. If the film is as well-received by critics as "Vicky" and "Paris," say, could she be the latest in the long line of stars to impress the Academy in an Allen film?
Check out the trailer above, and share your thoughts in the comments.