This is a post by JBFC Programmer Andrew Jupin
If it’s one thing you can say about Woody Allen, it’s that the guy likes to work. In fact, he likes working so much he hasn’t had a year go by without releasing a film since 1981. I wonder what was going on* between 1980’s Stardust Memories and 1982’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy? Since that one down year, we’ve had a new release from the Wood-man every year and 2013 is no exception. 2014 won’t be an exception either; as I write this, he’s in the south of France shooting his next film with Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Jacki Weaver, and Marcia Gay Harden. But this year is all about Jasmine, Blue Jasmine.
The much-hyped latest from Allen features Cate Blanchett as the titular Jasmine, a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Having gone broke in her husband’s (Alec Baldwin) Ponzi scheme, Jasmine leaves New York for San Francisco to crash and reconnect with her younger sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). While their relationship isn’t in the best of shape, Ginger takes Jasmine in as the elder sister sets out to start her life over the only way a totally functional adult would: chugging vodka, dropping Xanax, turning down decent jobs, and weaving a web of lies with a new man who takes interest in her, an aspiring politician played by Peter Sarsgaard.
Blanchett leads a cast of mostly new Allen collaborators — other first-timers include Bobby Cannavale, Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis C.K., the aforementioned Sarsgaard and even the Rock and Roll Detective himself, Andrew Dice Clay. Before you laugh, The Diceman has been garnering much critical acclaim for his portrayal of Ginger’s schlub ex-husband, Augie. Mixing up his stable of actors is something Allen’s been fond of ever since Diane Keaton had to fill in for Mia Farrow in 1993’s underrated Manhattan Murder Mystery. Blue Jasmine showcases his most diverse and interesting cast in ages.
This current period of Allen’s career, one that’s seen his most memorable films in years (starting with 2005’s Match Point) could really be titled “Woody Allen’s European Vacation”. Blue Jasmine only marks his second film set in America in almost ten years. His last visit to the States was the 2009 softball, Whatever Works. Traveling overseas has certainly reignited Allen’s creative spark after a string of America-set, comedic duds, the likes of which include Anything Else (2003), Hollywood Ending (2002), The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) and Small Time Crooks (2000). Perhaps burned out on straight comedy, this most recent streak has seen much more solid drama from Allen. For obvious reasons, when one thinks of Woody Allen’s movies, we always go straight to the classic comedies. His dramatic efforts, especially the older ones, are often overlooked in the bigger conversation of Woody’s career. So as you’re gearing up to catch his latest drama — and make no mistake, quirks aside, Blue Jasmine is definitely more drama than comedy — I urge you to fire up the Netflix queue and take a look back at some of the great dramas he has turned in over the years: Interiors (1978), September (1987), Another Woman (1988) and most importantly, the excellent Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989).
Blue Jasmine opens at the JBFC this Friday, August 2. Tickets are on sale now.
*In 1981, Allen had his play, The Floating Light Bulb, premiere on Broadway.