Blu-ray Review Blue Jasmine

Blue Moon Blu-ray Review: Blue Jasmine

January 21, 2014Ben MK

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Afternoon in San Francisco

By Ben Mk

There's no question — Woody Allen is one of Hollywood's most prolific writer/directors. The sheer volume of films he's written and directed over the course of his nearly fifty-year career is nothing short of mind-boggling, especially when you consider that he's put out one film a year for the past thirty-one years. His cinematic entry for 2013, Blue Jasmine, is yet another in a long, long line of projects that bears his unmistakable creative stamp. But those who come to it expecting something in line with his recent work may be in for a big surprise.

Allen's most recent films, Midnight in Paris and To Rome with Love, have been whimsical comedic fantasies. In contrast, Blue Jasmine brings everything down to Earth, with a darker tone and more serious subject matter. It's still recognizable as a Woody Allen film, with all of the sardonic and neurotic wit and banter audiences have come to expect; but instead of a light and airy center, Blue Jasmine is emotionally weighty at its core.

The film casts Cate Blanchett as Jasmine French, a former well-to-do New York socialite at her emotional breaking point, faced with the harsh reality of an abrupt transition from riches to rags. After years of living the high life with her business mogul husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), she's had the rug pulled out from under her when he's indicted on fraud charges and the federal government seizes all of their assets. Tightly clutching the fragments of her former life, she arrives at the doorstep of her estranged sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in San Francisco, hoping against hope to find financial and psychological salvation. But despite Ginger's readiness to embrace Jasmine with open arms, the others in her life — including Ginger's ex-husband, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), and her fiancé, Chili (Bobby Cannavale) — aren't nearly as trusting. As she struggles to reassemble the pieces of her life and reclaim her sense of self-worth and self-identity, Jasmine finds herself increasingly the victim of panic attacks and nervous breakdowns, with each episode threatening to push her over the edge completely.

Blue Jasmine starts out as unassuming and as charming as any other Woody Allen film, but over time — as Jasmine's life begins to further unravel — it settles into a more sinister rhythm: her cycle of self-destruction. Rather than let events unfold chronologically, Allen jumps back and forth in time, juxtaposing her current and former lives and also allowing some of his trademark humor to creep in where it wouldn't otherwise fit. Ultimately, the film is about the lies we tell, both to others and ourselves, supporting the notion that the only way to truly find happiness is to be comfortable in our own skin. The problem with that theory is that it doesn't work out so well for Jasmine, because she doesn't know who she really is.

Allen and cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe bathe Blue Jasmine in warm tones, creating a comforting and pleasing image that stays for the duration of the picture. There's an ever-present fine grain structure that's delicately replicated in the disc's transfer, to give the image a natural, film-like appearance; but otherwise, the transfer renders the look of the film with pinpoint sharpness. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is more than adequate for the film's soundstage, usually keeping the dialog-heavy proceedings low-key but stepping it up whenever the jazzy soundtrack calls for it.

The special features are typically light — as with most of Allen's films — and consist primarily of a press conference and some interview tidbits, totaling about a half an hour in length. Blue Jasmine - Los Angeles Press Conference features Cate Blanchett, Andrew Dice Clay and Peter Sarsgaard, as they answer a few questions from the press the day before the film's theatrical premiere. They provide some insight into their approach towards the film, their characters and working with Woody Allen, some of which overlaps with the content of Blue Jasmine - Notes from the Red Carpet, which features snippets of interviews from the same three actors. The set also includes a digital copy code, redeemable for an Ultraviolet copy of the film.

Blue Jasmine may surprise those who are only familiar with Woody Allen's comedic work, because the tone of the film is so unlike his other recent films. But it still bears his creative signature through and through, and Cate Blanchett's performance in the title role is absolutely stunning. The Blu-ray release of the film serves up an A/V presentation that will delight fans, even though the special features may leave them wanting. Ultimately, Blue Jasmine on Blu-ray is a keeper.

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  ★★★★
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  ★★★★★
Special Features  —  ★★½

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