Wednesday 2 October 2013


This will be a very strong contender for my 'film of the year'. It not only slips with ease into a list of Woody Allen's best ever but it surely finds its place among the top reaches of those select choices. I can't imagine many of his fans being disappointed, and it should well please a goodly number of those who are less enthusiastic about his works.

Cate Blanchett is absolutely extraordinary in the title role. I've always liked her but found something just a little bit held back in her appearances so far. Here she lets rip devastatingly as the high-flying, New York socialite who comes down with a bump when her affluent husband, who denies her nothing (Alec Baldwin, very good), is finally called to account for his embezzlements and tax evasions, the source of his wealth.  She then goes west to stay with her adoptive sister - who has also lost money in investing in one of the husband's criminal schemes - (Sally Hawkins, also in superb, convincing form) - but she cannot, and is unwilling to, shed her snobbery, including a disdain for having to work to earn her living. With frequent use of tranquillisers and alcohol as props, it's not long before she's expressing a barely-veiled snootiness towards Hawkins' more lowly, working-class lifestyle, with a reluctant, gritted-teeth tolerance of her two young sons, as well as downright disapproval for her sister's choice in men. Her regular tendency to talk aloud to herself in public is one of her more disturbing characteristics - but that's something we've all found ourselves doing now and again, right?.
The action flits back and forth between New York in the past when everything was going swimmingly and Hawkins and her then partner were visiting, they having to endure a conspicuous lack of warmth in their welcome there from the wealthy pair - and San Francisco in the present, with Blanchett still not relinquishing  her haughty, pre-'crash' social attitudes.
When Blanchett starts receiving the flattering attentions of well-monied Peter Sarsgaard she espies a possibility of release from her financial woes and weaves a web of outrageously blatant lies regarding her present situation in order to entrap him, including hiding her estrangement with her own grown-up son.
Sexual infidelities on a number of sides also figure up-front in this tale, all depicted totally convincingly. 

Never dull for one moment, the film fairly zips along. One doesn't know what's coming next and I was more than eager to find out. In the script there are a few very funny, pure Woody Allen one-liners, but it's basically a 'serious' film.
Near the start I was at first a bit anxious about the constant unannounced flicking between past and present, but not for long. Even though the chronology changes are not signalled  it's quite easy to determine where we are. Besides the visual contrast between N.Y. and S.F. offers its own elucidation.
Apart from the director/writer, most of the plaudits ought to go to Cate Blanchett in a role that must have been truly exhausting to perform. She's never been better.

As you can see I have a tremendous regard for this film and I accordingly reflect it in my rating. So, for only the second time this year, I register a gratifyingly high ......................8.5


  1. Delighted that you finally got to see this. Woody is still at the top of his game and gets a bravura performance from Cate. As with most of Woody's films, this one is marked by a strong storyline, sharp dialogue and colorful characters. Also, couldn't help but notice how beautifully shot it was in New York and Cali.

    I am wondering if you got the impression that this was Woody's update of Williams' "Desire"?

    1. My keen anticipation was duly rewarded handsomely, Paul - and you were one of many who came out with an opinion pretty well spot on with mine.

      Other critics have mentioned the parallel with 'Desire', especially since she played Blanche on the stage to quite some acclaim. Must be honest and say that it probably wouldn't have occurred to me independently, though the resemblance is indeed noteworthy.

      I agree that the scenic shots were something special. I think they needed to be to bring out the difference between 'then' and 'now'.

      I do hope Woody manages to pull out a few more high-quality surprises like this one before he finally calls it a day. He's one of the very few directors who, when I hear of his next release, always gets my heart pumping - no matter what the reviewers might say.

  2. ohhh sounds like it is a good one

    1. It most definitely is, Sol - at least unless one has an aversion to Woody Allen, which I know some people do.

  3. I saw this one !
    Yes, it was splendid; I cringed when I saw her decide to go down the path of falsehoods - such a tragedy. Good movie this,

    1. I wasn't expecting to hear this from you, Dr Spo. Not because I think you don't recognise 'quality' (you so obviously do, even more than I think I can), rather because I thought that the Jasmine character with her flaws and issues might be too close to reminding you of your own field of work. I'm delighted that our opinions coincide.