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Woody Allen takes on the rich, and he does it very Woody!

Now, sitting down to see a Woody Allen film, you have to be prepared for things not to make much sense, at least outside of the Allen universe. For example, why do people from San Francisco have Brooklyn and Staten Island accents? Or, why do characters change their minds suddenly without even a cursory explanation? Best to ignore these little quirks: Woody Allen doesn’t know why either, so it’s just best to enjoy the film.

Cate Blanchet plays Jasmine/Jeanette, a socialite on the rocks after her high-rolling husband turns out to be white collar crook, leaving her penniless and desperate. She decides to move in with her sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, a woman who lives a fairly blue collar, normal life, and who has never fit well into Jasmine’s world. A series of flashbacks to the glory days are interwoven with the humbling present of Jasmine’s humiliation, and we’re taken along for the ride. Meanwhile we ask questions about Jasmine’s complicity in her former husband’s crimes, her willingness to destroy other people’s lives in order to shore up her illusions, and her ability to drink so much vodka while popping Xanax like breath mints.

All of this is meant to be with a fairly light touch, of course, with upbeat music and lots of wryness in the script. Even so, there’s a dose of the Woody Allen we saw in Match Pointand it never gets terribly funny. Even as the goofy old jazz plays overtop, there’s a stomach lurch in it all. Woody’s out to show that this kind of person that Jasmine represents is as sociopathic and narcissistic as can be imagined (if you can imagine these two traits coexisting in excess to begin with). To that end, Blanchet’s performance is wonderful. She is funny, desperate, despicable, and shallow as a bird bath.

Sally Hawkins had a tougher time, because her character is completely unbelievable. She is a very competent actress, but there are times where you can see her struggling because there’s almost no way to carry off her dialogue in the midst of the abuse she’s taking in each scene. I still enjoyed watching Hawkins perform, but she had an uphill battle in this one.

Another note: Woody wants us to be thinking about what it means to put the past behind you. I’m not sure what he wants us to think about that though. I’m still working it out. In the meantime, overall the cast was fun, if almost all unbelievable.

I hope someday I get to be an extra or something in a Woody Allen movie. Preferably one with Penelope Cruz in it, if you’re reading this, Woody.

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