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I promised myself to not fall for film critics’ promises of the next Woody Allen being a “return to form” again, I have read that so often, and fallen into the trap of of insultingly stupid Reader’s Digest Tourist Guide Versions of Spain, Italy and France, that there was no way I would ever see a Woody Allen movie again. This time it was peer pressure, however, the sentence being “You cannot be so ignorant not to see this”… ok, I did go and see “Blue Jasmine” and was stunned what kind of film maker Allen still can be.

How could that happen? Is it that a director would be embarrassed to present Cate Blanchett with a stupid script, so he put an extra effort into preparing something worth her contribution? Or is it that after some slight commercial successes (I think) he is at liberty again to make the kind of movie the auteur responsible for “Hannah and Her Sisters” would actually like to make? Maybe he is just back to the old rhythm of making one film for the laughs, and the next in memory of Bergman, and this one was clearly on the Bergman side. It is not quite “Scenes of a Marriage”, but rather “Marriage aftermath”, with Cate Blanchett playing a rather superficial but not stupid woman woman, some kind of accidental gold-digger who was lucky for a while but then realised she bet on the wrong horse, that the gold was all fake. With her husband a bit of a hustler and a lot of a crook (not enough screen time for Alec Baldwin!), she has to face the harsh reality of all the shopping trips, big houses and plenty of cars and afternoon cocktails getting ripped  out of her hands after the house of cards collapsed. She has to face the accusations of why she did not realise all that much earlier and got out of there while she still could (what was the name of Tony Soprano’s wife again?). She has to deal with the fact of relying on the help of her sister whom she always despised for lack of ambition and poor choice of men.

Bringing those two together, and throwing in the jolly fun but hopeless and somehow weepy boyfriend of the sister (the Italian really really bad guy from Boardwalk Empire’s Season 4), promises imminent catastrophe. It is a strength of the film not to give away who will lose out in this, but to indicate early on that this is not the kind of movie where everybody will live happily ever after.

Cate Blanchett is carrying the film with grace, sometimes strong grace, sometimes wavering under the influence of booze, pills and damaged pride. She plays a ridiculous woman whom we still can feel pity for, as the damage done to her life is not just damage to a façade, but it is profound damage, and whether this is due to her own ignorance or not – she did not see it coming. We do not need to love or like her, she is a despicable and obnoxious and supercilious person, but Blanchett plays her so well that I had no problems feeling empathy and feeling her suffering, wishing for her to find a way out of the misery she had gotten herself into. It is Blanchett’s achievement to make me want to see her get out of it, it is Allen’s achievement to create a film around her that is sad and depressing while being entertaining and funny.

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