(directed by Woody Allen, 2013)
**** (out of 5)
> I count this among the very best latter-day Woody Allen films.
. It was refreshing, because it so didn’t feel like a Woody Allen film. Missing were the zippy zingers, the witty bon mots, the casual, seemingly effortless erudition that often betrays his stand up comedy/comedy writer roots, where if Woody himself is not in it, there is always a character that transparently represents him- a mouthpiece for his peculiar blend of wit and neurosis. Cate Blancett was as good as they say- but it’s all there in Woody’s effortless dialogue. I suspect many actresses would have been memorable in this plumb role of a clueless, frazzled, loquacious, self-obsessed mess of a woman.
. The scene where she reveals intimate details about her life in a very adult way to two shocked children is absolutely priceless! I loved watching fine New Jersey actor Bobby Cavalle show a different, more nuanced side of himself than we see in HBO’s fine ”Boardwalk Empire”, where he plays an amoral monster of a gangster. Here, he is a simple if roughhewn man hopelessly in love with Jasmine’s quasi-sister, wonderfully played by Sally Hawkins who is actually the heart and soul of the movie. (Nominated for the role, will not win.) Jasmine herself is a bit of a monster- her personality grotesquely distorted by a life of privilege fueled by pills and booze. Here, she borders on a broad stereotype- but we recognize Jasmine. Who hasn’t met a person like her- someone who will tell you their intimate lifestory at the drop of a hat, whether you want to hear it or not?
. One strange thing: on at least three occasions, I thought Mr. Allen actually made a mistake in the editing. That is, he missed great opportunities that would have lengthened the film by a few seconds at most, but strengthened the scenes immeasurably. I’m talking about reaction shots. The timing seemed off to me, when he suddenly cut away without showing us how others reacted to Jasmine’s outrageous monologues- the scene with the kids being a prime example.
. I am sorry for the current drama in Woody’s life, but thrilled to see Mr. Allen can still be so very, very good, and I could sure see Cate walking away with another Oscar for this.
(She did… to nobody’s surprise. And it was an Oscar she earned.)
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