Woody Allen's latest film, Blue Jasmine, comes to Blu-ray with a pristine transfer courtesy of Sony. Although it has some funny moments, at its center Blue Jasmine is a drama about a New York socialite who loses everything when her husband is arrested and convicted of swindling investors out of millions of dollars. A hit with the critics, Blue Jasmine has already won a Golden Globe Award and has been nominated for three Academy Awards - Best Actress (Cate Blanchett), Best Supporting Actress (Sally Hawkins), and Best Original Screenplay (Woody Allen). It is highly original, very involving, and as is typically the case with Woody Allen films it has a very talented ensemble cast.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
Run Time: X1Hr. 38 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletStandard Blu-ray Keep Case with Slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 01/212013
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Let me tell you something, Jeanette, Jasmine, whatever it is you call yourself these days. Some people, they don't put things behind so easily.
Blue Jasmine film opens aboard a plane flying from New York to San Francisco. Jasmine (Blanchett) is seated in first class, telling her life story to the older woman sitting next to her. Jasmine continues to talk as they make their way through the terminal and as they wait for the luggage at baggage claim. The older woman finally breaks free of Jasmine when she sees her husband, who asks "Who's that woman you were talking to?" She sighs and replies "I was sitting next to her on the plane. She was talking to herself. I thought she said something to me. I said 'What?' But she couldn't stop babbling about her life."
Jasmine is in San Francisco to start a new life, but she is beginning her new life by staying with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). They are not biological sisters - they had different birth parents, but they were adopted by the same couple. Their lives proceeded on divergent paths when Ginger left home for the west coast, where she married a blue-collar man named Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) and had two sons. Jasmine, who had been named Jeanette, went to college for three years but left without graduating after being swept off her feet by Hal (Alec Baldwin), an investments guru. In keeping with her new station in life Jeanette changed her name to Jasmine, which seemed more in keeping with the luxurious lifestyle she was now leading.
In fact, Ginger and Jasmine hadn't seen much of each other since they went their separate ways. In flashbacks we see Ginger and Augie visiting Jasmine and Hal in New York, where Ginger announces that they had just won $200,000 in the California lottery and Hal planned to use the money to start a contracting business. Hal, however, encourages Ginger and Augie to invest in hotels, promising them an annual return of 15% on their money. That turns out to be a big mistake.
Back in the present day, Ginger and Augie have divorced and Ginger has a new boyfriend, an auto mechanic named Chile (Bobby Cannavale). Chili had been planning on moving in with Ginger, but those plans had to be put on hold when Ginger agreed to let Jasmine come live with her and her kids. When Jasmine meets Chili, she immediately disapproves of him, as she regards him as just another version of Augie. For his part, Chili is not impressed with Jasmine, who in spite of having just flown first class across the country has no money, no prospects, and only vague plans to complete her college education. Although she apparently has never worked a day in her life, Jasmine does land a job as a receptionist for a dentist, Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg). She also takes computer classes, where she becomes friendly with a woman who invites her to a party where she might be able to meet some eligible bachelors. The invitation is timely, because Jasmine has become increasingly depressed and relies upon Xanax to keep her going. She drags Ginger to the party, but while Ginger is dancing with Al (Louis C.K.), a man she has just met, Jasmine catches the eye of Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a handsome, ambitious man with the State Department who has just bought a new house in Marin County and has been looking for a suitable woman to marry. It appears that Jasmine may have an opportunity to regain the lifestyle she has been accustomed to, and even Ginger may have found a man who is more substantial than either Augie or Chili.
Blue Jasmine easily and almost seamlessly moves back and forth between the present and Jasmine's former life with Hal, with each flashback revealing more detail about their life and how Jasmine may have been passively complicit in Hal's felonious activities. Cate Blanchett has already won a Golden Globe (to go along with her Academy Award nomination) for her incredibly complex performance as Jasmine. She has an amazing scene with Ginger's children, who question her about being crazy and she gives them some advice ("You must have heard of Prozac and Lithium") which they cannot possibly understand. Sally Hawkins is very nearly Blanchett's equal for her Academy Award-nominated, sympathetic portrayal of Ginger, who lacks self-esteem and does not have Jasmine's refinement, but she is really superior to her sister in many ways. Special mention should be made of the performance of Andrew Dice Clay, who is a revelation as Augie, a rough-around-the-edges man who is justifiably seething with anger at Jasmine because of what Hal did to Augie's dream of owning his own business. Finally, Woody Allen has been given yet another Academy Award nomination for his screenplay, which is both smart and insightful. As Peter Sarsgaard remarks, "I remember once doing a film with Campbell Scott where he says 'People don't go to the movies to feel bad or learn anything.' Well, I think you go to see a Woody Allen movie, you many not feel bad but you will learn something."
This 2.40:1 1080p presentation, which utilizes the AVC codec, is another typically excellent Blu-ray transfer from Sony. The beautiful cinematograph is by Javier Aguirresarobe, who also filmed Vicky Cristina Barcelona for Woody Allen. The image is properly framed, and the picture is highly detailed with no evidence of digital manipulation. The color palette is very warm and bright, similar to the look we saw with Midnight in Paris and To Rome With Love. Black levels are solid and shadow detail is very good. All of the exterior scenes were shot on location in New York and California, which obviously adds to the film's appeal. An appropriate level of film grain has been retained to give this Blu-ray presentation a satisfying, film-like appearance. All in all this is a first-class Blu-ray presentation.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is excellent, considering the fact that Woody Allen never does much with the surround channels. He prefers to use music rather than sound effects for emphasis and mood, and such is the case with Blue Jasmine. The evocative musical soundtrack is beautifully rendered and the dialogue is clear, understandable and confined to the center channel. The left-center-right channels do almost all of the work and the surround channels have little to do.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The extras are limited to a six-minute featurette, "Notes From the Red Carpet," in which Cate Blanchette, Andrew Dice Clay and Peter Sarsgaard talk about what it is like to work on a Woody Allen film, and 25 minutes of questions and answers from a Los Angeles press conference.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Also included are the film's theatrical trailer and a preview of Before Midnight.
Those who may be expecting another romantic comedy from Woody Allen might be disappointed to learn that Blue Jasmine is more drama than comedy, but it is an exceptional, insightful drama which boasts first-rate performances from an outstanding cast led by two Academy Award-nominated actresses.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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