The trouble with reviews which disproportionately inflate one’s expectations … almost inevitably, the object of those expectations falls short. How could it not?
Take Blue Jasmine, heralded not only as Woody Allen’s best movie in 20 years – a near miraculous return to former glories – and rather than a piece of charming fluff, serious drama, with a potentially award-winning performance from Cate Blanchett, giving us, we’re promised, her updated version of Blanche Dubois in Streetcar. The early evening showing up the road at the Phoenix, East Finchley, is close to sold-out. We’re in for a memorable evening. And the truth is, it’s okay. Just about.
Blanchett is fine, but seems to be acting in a different movie from all of the other characters, who are little more than ciphers. [Waiting for a table at Muswell Hill Carluccio's later, my daughter explains, convincingly, that that's exactly the point.] But in consequence, Blanchet has little or nothing solid to bounce off, which means the extremes of her behaviour are in danger of coming across as no more than exercises in acting technique – there’s little real sense of cause or consequence and scenes which could have been truly powerful, such as the one where she re-encounters her missing son, go for very little.
In fact, the whole Blanche Dubois thing is a distraction, presumably some publicist’s good idea – Blanche-Blanchett, get it! – and it’s hard at times not to think what you’re watching is something deliberately set up for Blanchett to give it her best Oscar shot, with all the other actors filling the space around her in a way that ensures she stands out – a bit like the Tour de France where the function of most of the riders in a team is to pave the way for the leading cyclist to burst through in the final stages and take all the glory on the podium.
And, besides, Woody’s best in 20 years … 1993 … that would be Manhattan Murder Mystery. Pretty much a stinker, if ever there was one.