Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2013. Gravier Productions, Perdido Productions. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe. Produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson. Production Design by Santo Loquasto. Costume Design by Suzy Benzinger. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter. Academy Awards 2013. Golden Globe Awards 2013. Gotham Awards 2013. Independent Spirit Awards 2013. New York Film Critics 2013. Washington Film Critics Awards 2013.
Cate Blanchett leaves New York and heads to San Francisco, formerly a super rich Park Avenue matron and now broke and disgraced in the wake of her former husband (Alec Baldwin) being exposed as a Madoff-esque crook. While she was rich she never had much time for her lower-class sister (Sally Hawkins), but now that she has nowhere else to turn, not to mention that she is suffering from a severe alcohol and pill addiction and a recent nervous breakdown, she leans on her sibling for support. She also takes advantage of all opportunities to criticize her sister’s boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) while making plans to become an interior designer and starting a dishonest relationship with wealthy and handsome Peter Sarsgaard. Allen’s version of A Streetcar Named Desire with shades of A Woman Under The Influence is a scintillating character study that soars thanks to an outstanding performance in the lead by the superbly perfect Blanchett: she taps into deep-seated madness with fierce dedication, scene after scene driving her further into a despair that never wears out or alienates the audience. Allen does not have the desire to make you as uncomfortable as Cassavetes did, nor is he interested in the theatrical panache of Tennessee Williams, so his version of a tale of a lost soul in a downward spiral is accented with such comedic highlights as a sex-crazy dentist and, in the film’s funniest scene, Blanchett revealing her perspective on life to her hapless pre-teen nephews. The only thing missing from what would otherwise be one of the best that this great artist has ever made is emotional poignancy: we get to know Blanchett’s character thanks to the close look at her psychosis (complemented by some exquisitely calibrated flashbacks to her life before the fall), but we never get to really love her or her highly amiable sister. This is not Allen reaching deep into your heart the way fine works like Broadway Danny Rose or Hannah And Her Sisters did, but it’s not the committed metallic sheen of Match Point either. That said, its pluses outweigh the easily forgettable minuses in spades and it is highly recommended viewing.