Waxing [Cinematically]: Blue Jasmine

There are few things I get to look forward to year after year than Woody Allen’s next movie. The man’s output is just absurd — 44 movies in 47 years — and he continues his somber parade on with more and more creativity. To be short, I love what the man does with his opportunity. He makes great movies and he makes a lot of them. He makes duds, too, to be sure, but by sheer numbers he’d have to.

It’s precisely that I like Woody’s work so much that Blue Jasmine didn’t enthrall me the way it might a first timer to the Woodman’s art.

In thinking about how I might objectively quantify a movie like Blue Jasmine — I’d probably give it something of an 8.4.

In thinking about where I might place it among Woody’s recent movies — it’s better than any of his movies in the last 10 years except Match Point, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris.

And Cate Blanchett? Well, yes. Probably the finest leading actress performance in a Woody Allen movie in the last two decades. (Though I’d have to go back and look through all of those to be sure).

What I can be sure of is that she was incredible. Moving, theatrically — at once calling for your deepest sympathies and then clawing on the door of your greatest annoyances. You just can’t sit with her for too long, except that you want so badly to sit with her for so long. This all made even more powerful knowing that Allen is famous for his quick takes, for letting actors and actresses play things off the cuff and just “go with it”

Okay, so why all of this? Well I’ll get to that. And then I’ll get into why it’s fair to put this, and any other, Woody Allen movie against other Woody Allen movies.

It looks like I’ll have to do both to pull off a cohesive point, so let’s do both.

Blue Jasmine is classic Woody. Well actually it’s classic Woody with more than a dash of A Street Car Named Desire. Still, the movie doesn’t try to say too much that his past movies haven’t. This opposes Midnight in Paris, for instance, which had a thesis about classicism that Woody’s other movies have only mentioned but never focused on.

Jasmine? Relationships. Heartbreak. Meeting new lovers. All of it is there. Just as it was explored in 80s, here it is again. And that’s fine. He does that better than most any other.

But that’s just not enough for me to fall in love with Blue Jasmine. Not the well I fell in love with Midnight in Paris. Not the way I fell in love with Annie Hall, Love and Death, Bananas, or Vicky Cristina.

And that’s okay. It was still a great movie, held together by a great performance thanks to Ms. Blanchett.

So my entire take is based on comparing this movie to his others. Fair? Well, it has to be. Woody movies are Woody movies — and I apologize if it’s a mistake to not allow things out of that categorical thinking. It’s just how it is for me. They have the feel, the dialogue, the touch that only Allen’s mind provides. And so it goes, Jasmine gets judged against the others and it fairs well, very well in fact, but it won’t be a masterpiece on his mantel when he goes.

For Blanchett, it may be. Though she’s put in a lifetime of great performances already and has more to come.

Definitely recommend the movie — just more to wax on this one than meets the eye. And I owe that all to my love of Allen’s flicks.

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