I went into a theatre expecting brilliance from Cate Blanchett, and was blind-sided by Woody Allen’s politics. But maybe that was to be expected.
I keep finding politics everywhere I turn. Maybe it’s me (and the political focus of what i’ve been seeing)? But no, surely this is what Woody Allen wanted me to see, in his current film Blue Jasmine.
While there’s Oscar buzz around Blanchett’s work, I confess I wasn’t blown away. Maybe it’s because the role is full of the sorts of impressive things actors do that we associate with acting. Oh look she’s having an anxiety attack. Oh look she’s lying. Oh look she’s a fish out of water, a rich woman suddenly in a place where there are no rich people.
Actually I think she resembles a Hollywood actor doing a star turn. I liked her work far more in other films that generated no comparable buzz (Pushing Tin for instance). Is that so-called buzz actually fake, the sound of hands being shaken behind closed doors? Or is it that the Oscar has to go to performances that genuinely look like acting, rather than performances that resemble real people? It happens all the time, that the voters in the Academy seem more interested in a performance that hits you over the head with someone who is acting. Say it loudly, with reverence. The Academy loves ACTING!
Alec Baldwin, on the other hand –playing a complete jerk—really does deserve an Oscar, even if pardon my French, people assume he’s playing himself. But the performance is stunning. Andrew Dice Clay and Louis CK are both a joy to watch: but it makes sense that Woody Allen knows how to work with comic talent. And Sally Hawkins (sorry, never heard of her before…) is breath-taking. Is it heresy to suggest she blows Blanchett of the screen? No that’s perhaps an over-statement. But considering i had no idea who she is, she’s a happy discovery for me. And I do believe that when they were onscreen together, i was mostly watching Sally not Cate. It may be my prejudice, that i cared more about the character Allen wrote for Sally and the fascinating moral arc of their collective self-deceptions.
Hey Academy! What does Woody Allen have to do to get your attention? In this film he goes a long way in self-revelation. For starters, he makes one of the main characters a man who leaves his wife for the under-age au pair looking after the kids, a very unlikeable character I may add. If that weren’t enough, he situates some of the nicest warmest fuzziest moments in the plot around a nice-guy comedian who might be accused of being the alter ego of the film-maker. And he too turns out to be a jerk.
Give the guy an Oscar already! His last few films have been brilliantly written & directed. This one is the best yet. I think he deserves a pair –for writing & direction–but i won’t hold my breath. Oscar is like the World Cup, except it’s annual heartbreak, rather than getting my heart broken every four years.
Is Allen being political? We get someone who seems to be modeled on Bernard Madoff, the Ponzi artist. We watch the juxtaposition of rich and poor, an entitled monster who’s lost everything, and still looks down her nose at the woman who is rescuing her. Is this a drama that’s completely of Allen’s composition, or possibly something regularly being enacted all over America since the financial downturn?
However you read it, Allen’s focus is the human tragicomedy, not the politics. We’re looking at fundamental questions of truth, falsehood, good faith & self-deception. And like a good manners comedy, you feel cleansed for being confronted by these questions, even if he leaves you hanging at the end.