As he staggers through the modern age of filmmaking, I can’t shake the feeling that Woody Allen is struggling to keep himself relevant. He’s managed to make at least one movie per year, as a director and writer. An impressive feat, especially through the 70s and 80s when his consistency was matched by an unwavering quality. But something must’ve changed in the past decade, because his past few outings as a director have been overwhelmingly mediocre. The likes of Café Society, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Whatever Works landed with a thud and were met with more of a sigh than a gasp. A mixed middleground is met with Blue Jasmine.
It’s nice to see then that Allen still has glimmers of solid filmography left in him, and Blue Jasmine feels like his final well-rounded movie. Coming hot off of the heels of Midnight in Paris, (only To Rome with Love breaks this train of consistency), Blue Jasmine follows the life of a former socialite (Cate Blanchett), who moves in with her sister (Sally Hawkins) after her high society world falls to pieces. This is the movie Café Society was trying to be, and I presume with a different setting and a better cast it would’ve worked.
I was right, and Blue Jasmine is a really solid piece of Allen work, with all the expected tropes to boot. They’re not as head on as they once were, not as strong as when Allen was the leading man anyways. His discussions of death and the inevitability of losing someone or something is heralded in his earlier movies, but subtle when he positions himself behind the scenes. Here he directs a somewhat complex story, by which I mean one of the few that tries to avoid his expected tropes and instead veers into actual storytelling.
Rare as it is to find an Allen story that doesn’t feel like an Allen-esqe project, Blue Jasmine provides such an experience. So defunct and distant from the tropes and prose of his regular works, it feels more as if it tries to tell a believable and depressingly realistic story. Blanchett’s leading role borders on unbelievable, but it makes limited sense when you think about it deeply. She’s a lost cause, thrown into a world she doesn’t understand and feels she is too good for. Tragedy has struck her, and while it is somewhat her fault, she’s certainly not the main person to blame. She’s made to think that though, by those around her. Her sister’s boyfriend, (played by a surprisingly solid Bobby Cannavale) thinks as much anyway, and makes sure to tell her.
Ditching the expected New York love letter, Blue Jasmine is the furthest Allen has moved away from his usual tropes of direction. It’s nice to see him experiment with new ideas that don’t entirely involve death, but it’s a staple of his work and what he has become known for. To move away from such ideas is a make or break move, so it’s warming to see that his move away from these tropes is able to create a solid movie. Allen directs yet another solid romantic drama, but it’s still nowhere close to the standards of his glory days.