NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

January 16, 2014

Red, White and Blue Jasmine

Unless the San Andreas Fault sank California last night and gave Nevada the coast, Cate Blanchett now has a Best Actress nomination for her performance in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine.”

If the Academy heeds Screening Room patrons, breathless in reactions to her riches-to-rags role as they left the theater, she will receive the Oscar on March 2.

Reactions to the film as a whole are mixed, as you’d expect for a comedy so grim that few in the audience laugh when Jasmine, asked where she is from, answers, “Park Avenue.”

It’s a tribute to Allen — which the reviewers will never give — that the supporting cast matches Blanchett’s performance. Most moving is Andrew Dice Clay, whose few brief scenes may land him a nod for supporting actor.

Don’t laugh: Marlon Brando was once nominated for that award for a blink-of-an-eye turn in “A Dry White Season” (1989), a comparison worth making considering that Clay’s final scene echoes “I coulda’ been a contender” in more ways than one.

That, of course, was “On the Waterfront” (1954), recognized as a metaphor for post-war America with a strong plot offering the ways and means of organized crime in the mid-20th century.

Which brings us to what the reviewers miss in “Blue Jasmine,” especially in the character of Jasmine French, despite all the praise they heap on Blanchett’s rendition of it.

She was married to a Wall Street high-roller played by Alec Baldwin — who makes you believe how easy it was for so many to believe the likes of Bernie Madoff — and so she was surrounded by the ways and means of 21st-century organized crime.

As she says — often enough so that we hear her ditzy sister (played by Sally Hawkins, yet another gem) say it for her — she was able to live with the illusion and deny the fraud by “looking the other way.”

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