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I think it's fair to go ahead and stand out here and say Cate Blanchett gives a tour de force performance in Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine." It's definitely the best thing she's done since "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" if not "The Aviator" or "Notes on a Scandal." She takes a shallow concept of a character, really, and injects it with so much withered spirit, flighty contempt and horrified dissatisfaction that you can't help but expect her name will be in the conversation for awards at the end of the year.
The film is pretty great, too, by the way. It's not some romp squeezed in between more substantial Allen efforts. It has a lot on its mind, ideas it handles well in both the macro and the micro throughout. But mostly it's an awesome vehicle for a top-notch cast to unload, with Blanchett way out in front.
Sally Hawkins? She's always been good at the little details. Bobby Cannavale? I saw him on Broadway a few months back in "Glengarry Glen Ross" and I've been a fan since "The Station Agent." The confidence he brings to a role is staggering. Can we cast this guy in everything, please?
Andrew Dice Clay? He delivers. Peter Sarsgaard? Very well used. Alec Baldwin? There's not much going on internally with his character and much of what you take away from it is done in the editing, but like Sarsgaard, he's perfectly utilized. Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis CK are well-situated on the periphery, too, but really, Blanchett pretty much owns the movie.
"Blue Jasmine" is a riches to rags tale about Jasmine (Blanchett), the wife of a Park Ave. investment scumbag (Baldwin) who loses her upper crust lifestyle and is forced to move in with her adopted sister (Hawkins) in San Francisco while she attempts to find her feet. The script (which also deserves some awards attention) unfolds in a very controlled fashion, bleeding flashbacks into Jasmine's present neuroses and really working as a bourgeois send-up (an old Allen favorite) that nevertheless provides for real empathy. But more on all of that at a later date.
For now, though, I have to imagine even detractors of the film won't be able to argue against what Blanchett does here. Maybe some will think she goes over the top, I don't know. I thought she kept a steady eye on that line and never crossed it. The result is probably the best performance in a Woody Allen film since Sean Penn in 1999's "Sweet and Lowdown."
Sony Pictures Classics came really close to securing an Oscar for a lead actress last year. Can they get there this time?
"Blue Jasmine" hits theaters July 26.
Everything: Academy Awards
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