Title: Blue Jasmine
HTS Overall Score:88
Woody Allen has an incredible ability to engage audiences with the power of smart dialog and richly layered story lines. His characters are often charmingly flawed and vulnerable, and Allen’s casting abilities are typically spot-on. This isn’t to say that Allen gets it right every time. He’s thrown a few duds up against the wall in recent times...Cassandra’s Dream comes to mind. Fortunately, Blue Jasmine is about as far from dud-world as a film can land, pulled along by a show stopping performance by lead actress Cate Blanchett. Her work has already delivered her “Best Actress” awards from the Screen Actor Guild and Golden Globes and she was recently nominated for the same award from the Academy; she’s likely going to make it a clean sweep.
Blanchett plays the role of Jasmine, an entitled former Manhattan socialite reeling from the utter destruction of her privileged life. Her tragedy is intimately tied to her former husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) who, ironically, spent his career destroying the lives of others through a deceptively intricate Ponzi scheme. Hal is now out of the picture and Jasmine has been stripped of everything, including her phony pride. Without two pennies to rub together, she heads west to San Francisco where her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and two sons live. Jasmine’s barely holding it together, partially living with expectations she had in her past life, losing grip on her mental controls, and living in fear of an unknown future.
Ginger’s life has already been victimized by Hal and Jasmine once, leading to the loss of a significant amount of money and the destruction of her first marriage. She’s an odd bird that lacks self esteem and is also looking to ground her life. What Ginger has, that Jasmine needs, is the ability to see reality (which is something Jasmine has chosen to ignore for long stretches of her life). Despite their past issues, Ginger opens her home to her homeless sister and begins the process of getting Jasmine back on her feet. While Ginger’s apartment, boyfriend, and – in general – life, offends Jasmine's sense of acceptability, she has no choice but to gracefully accept refuge.
The film alternates between Jasmine’s past and present, slowly revealing the cause of her fall from high society. Her past is full of fake smiles and convenient ignorance, while her present is a mass of confusion. She's the architect of her own demise, and it’s fascinating to watch as she comes to that realization. Unfortunately for Jasmine, her attempts to start a new life are easily derailed by her distaste of menial labor and a weakness for old tactics. This time, however, the rules of the game have changed and she has a much harder time hiding from the truth.
Blue Jasmine is a divine work and Cate Blanchett delivers a performance that is simply stellar. Her movements and expressions are nuanced and extraordinarily revealing, which only add to her masterful delivery of lines. Her character is extraordinarily complicated and Blanchett does an excellent job of exposing every layer, warts and all. The rest of the cast, including Balwdin, Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay (Ginger’s ex-husband), and Bobby Cannavale (Ginger’s boyfriend) are equal to the task. The result is a must see film.
The film’s extras are easily this release’s weak link. Apart from the theatrical trailer and previews (Sony was apparently digging for almost anything to include), the other two features are interviews of the cast in two separate settings: The premier’s red carpet and a three actor press conference. Essentially we are treated to the actors gushing about their characters and the awesomeness of working with Woody Allen. To call the material decent is a stretch.
PG-13 for mature thematic material, language and sexual content.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/bj3.jpg[/img]Sony Pictures stays true to the source in yet another excellent MPEG-4 AVC transfer, giving Blue Jasmine a beautiful 2.40:1 image quality. What the movie doesn’t deliver is an ultra-crisp image, as it’s best described as a much warmer film-like experience. Many scenes feature visible grain and the image maintains a certain softness that appears completely natural, giving it an artsy film-house feel. Fine details are present, but not in abundance, as they're somewhat hidden by the texture of the image. Bronze overtones dominate the color palate (especially during indoor scenes), which pushes bright colors (such as white) toward the tan-side. With the exception of reds, which are bold and sit heavy in images, most colors are purposely flat and fail pop. The bronze color push also results in flesh tones that appear somewhat unnatural at times (again, no fault of the transfer). Shadow detail is excellent (benefiting from good contrast) and blacks are are deep and dark.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//bj4.png[/img]It should come as no surprise that Blue Jasmine is relatively subdued in the audio department, keeping in mind it’s a dialog driven drama. That being said, Blue Jasmine’s DTS-MA HD 5.1 audio presentation is slyly intricate, making for a surprisingly pleasing experience. Dialog is highly intelligible during every scene, dead centered, with a pleasant weight to its character. While a tad more warmth would have been welcomed (at times voice textures venture towards tight and flat), Sony Pictures scores fairly well for a good presentation. The film easily could have settled for a forward, center heavy, experience with ambient sounds appearing primarily in the center of the soundstage, however Blue Jasmine does just the opposite, achieving an ethereal richness and expansiveness through the use of all channels. Sounds such as crashing waves and water lapping on dock pilings, crickets signing, seagulls squawking, and patron chatter in crowded restaurants pleasantly emerge from the rears and front mains. This helps the film’s scenes feel alive and airy (it’s subtle, but adds a welcomed dimension). There are also a few moments where sound pans and directionality help accentuate on the screen actions, again, building a hint of dimensionality. On the music front, the film features quite a few blues tracks and other soulful songs, many of which lack the dynamic snap, depth, and crispness of more modern recordings; this is a benefit, however, as the aged sounds exude a certain sophistication and help to set the tone of the film.
• Notes from the Red Carpet
• Blue Jasmine Cast Press Conference
• Blue Jasmine Theatrical Trailer
Blue Jasmine is one of the better films of 2013, making it one of the better Blu-ray releases of this young year. The story is an intricate and layered study of a socialites fall into the gutter. The star-studded cast delivers big with Cate Blanchett’s award winning performance leading the charge. Being a Woody Allen drama, it’s easy to assume the audio and video might be rather bland. Not so fast, says Sony! The video transfer is quite excellent, presenting a textured, cinematic, image, while the audio presentation sneaks-up with some surprising subtleties. This release is easy to recommend as a watch and is a blind-buy recommendation for collectors that appreciate good films.
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Studio: Sony Pictures
Runtime: 98 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: January 21, 2014
Buy Blue Jasmine on Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!