Blue Jasmine, rated PG-13

Starring Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg

Austin Family critical rating: 5 of 5 stars
Austin Family family-friendly rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blue Jasmine is writer/director Woody Allen’s best film since his incredible Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989). Like Crimes and Misdemeanors, this new film is closer to tragedy than comedy. Allen has made some extraordinary films in the past few years, including Midnight in Paris (for which he won an Academy Award), Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and Blue Jasmine is the crowning achievement of his recent work.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett, in one of the finest performances of the year) has lost everything – her husband (Alec Baldwin), an investment banker arrested for fraud; her wealth, including her Park Avenue mansion, taken by the government in the aftermath of the scandal; and her sanity. She arrives in San Francisco to stay with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins, also amazing), telling a million lies to everyone in sight. The film hauntingly intercuts Jasmine in present-day San Francisco attempting to rebuild her life with scenes from her life as a wealthy New Yorker, almost as if we’re reliving her past with her.

Blue Jasmine has one of the most inspired ensemble casts of any recent movie. Some of the most underrated actors currently working are used here to perfection, including Peter Sarsgaard as an aspiring politician who genuinely loves Jasmine, Bobby Cannavale as Ginger’s passionate boyfriend Chili (how our ideas about Chili shift throughout the movie is a testament to the genius of Allen’s writing) and Andrew Dice Clay, who gives the film an unexpected heart as Ginger’s ex-husband.

Jasmine may make mistakes and lie about her past, but the film isn’t afraid to acknowledge when she’s right, which makes her downfall even more tragic. What’s remarkable about Allen’s film is how it neither condemns nor endorses the moral failings of these complex characters. Blue Jasmine defies expectations at every turn, and my evaluation of every character was challenged with each new scene.

At the same time, Jasmine is responsible for nearly everything that ends up destroying her, and watching her lose her mind, muttering to herself and reenacting moments from her past, is pretty devastating – especially since Allen gives us such a vivid sense of the darkness that consumed her perfect life in Manhattan. In a film full of characters who delude themselves into happiness, Jasmine is the least successful of them all.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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