I saw a couple of movies recently and they were mostly just okay; however, this didn’t stop critics from creaming themselves over both of them. Here are my totally unnecessary reviews:
Blue Jasmine (2013):
Despite the critical fawning it’s received Blue Jasmine is mostly just decent; there aren’t really any bad moments nor great ones; the movie is just a somewhat entertaining experience throughout. This is because, while well-acted and well-shot, it lacks depth, nor is it even that funny.
Let me talk about the positives. The acting, as most critics have pointed out, is pretty good across the board. However, Cate Blanchett probably didn’t deserve the Oscar for, while she was alright, her acting doesn’t do enough to elevate the vapidity and predictability of her character. The reason she won was probably because her character has some sort of mental illness and is unsubtle about it. The better performances come from Bobby Cannavale and Andrew Dice Clay as working class schmoes. Sally Hawkins as Blanchett’s sister is okay, but her potentially good character is underwritten. She seems happy with her boyfriend (played by Cannavale,) but has an affair with some guy played by Louis C.K. who, on top of being a loser, looks like Louis C.K. Why? Then she gets it back with her boyfriend. Does she do this because she truly loves him and was led astray by doubt or because her affair ended and she fears loneliness? Or is Allen trying to do something like he did in Husband and Wives where one couple, after having a separation, get back together? The difference is that that scenario made more sense for we understood the characters more deeply. Hawkins’ character isn’t complex (which would allow the possibility of ambiguity) but simply pallid and vague.
On top of the shallow characterizations the movie is also predictable. From the beginning it’s easy to guess Jasmine’s fate and everything leading up to it has been seen before in other films. There are no original and insightful moments aside from Andrew Dice Clay’s “confrontation” with Cate Blanchett as she looks at engagement rings with a lonely guy who plans on marrying her. Clay, who lost 200,000 dollars thanks to Blanchett’s ex-husband (Alec Baldwin,) opines on how some people simply cannot disconnect themselves from the past as she has attempted to do. There is also the film’s ending portraying Blanchett’s self-imposed damnation as she sits on a park bench chattering to herself, but it’s also a bit obvious as a contrast to her sister’s end which is her getting back with her boyfriend and going on happily with life.
Whatever. You can read a more in-depth review at Cosmoetica which details some of the flaws I mentioned and more, and Alex Sheremet’s analysis of the film in his book on Woody Allen, making my review kind of superfluous. Anyway, not a bad movie, but it’s a slight and flawed film. Still worth a watch though for it’s better made than most dramas.
The Punk Singer (2013):
Basically a hagiography of musician and feminist Kathleen Hanna. I watched this mostly because I have a vague interest in punk music (I like shit like The Pop Group, Pere Ubu and Fugazi) and while I’ve heard of Bikini Kill (the group Hanna fronted in the nineties) I’ve never really listened to their music. However, despite all of the footage the documentary uses showing Hanna’s energetic and confrontational performances the film is mostly about Hanna’s attempts at using music as a vehicle for her political and social views, focusing little on the artistic side of things (which I guess makes sense considering the music, while pretty decent, isn’t exactly revolutionary, lots of times evoking 70’s band The Runaways.)
The main problem with the documentary is that it’s simply not that deep nor complex; the film could have been shortened to about half an hour and still cover all the necessary territory–half the time it just seemed like a Wikipedia article set to images. The only times the movie nears depth are when it highlights Hanna and Bikini Kill’s relationship with the media, and Hanna’s complete desire for autonomy. The documentary could have also gone outside of Hanna, using her story as a portal through which deeper things could have been addressed like how mediocrities within the media react to anything different and why, and the places in which sexist behavior stems from. Or, the filmmakers could have instead focused more on Hanna’s inner-life. The most “revealing” part of the film wasn’t that she was sexually abused, but the reason she lied to everyone when she temporarily left music for it at least showed some of the things that drive her. Unfortunately, the moment is made trite when the “reveal” is emphasized by a shot of her getting up from her seat, away from the camera, and the shot lingering on the now empty chair.
So, for the most part, it’s a decent documentary, but it remains merely a primer. It offers little in depth about third-wave feminism, sexism, media, music and its titular subject. But for anyone interested in Kathleen Hanna or her various musical projects it may not be a bad place to start.