‘Blue Jasmine’: Cate Blanchett hits truthful high note

"Blue Jasmine, starring Cate Blanchett, was directed and written by Woody Allen.

"Blue Jasmine, starring Cate Blanchett, was directed and written by Woody Allen.

Contributed Photo / Contributed Photo

If Cate Blanchett hints at her star power in “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” she illuminates the screen in her Oscar-winning “Blue Jasmine” from 2013.

How people hide the truth from themselves, and rewrite history that becomes too painful, frames the narrative this gem from Woody Allen. With a situation as fresh as today, and a leading character as complex as the best of serious drama, the masterful Woody creates an irresistible examination of how people start the rewrite when truth becomes too painful. While the fiction they create may entertain their observers, every exaggerated event prevents forward movement. “Blue Jasmine” reminds us that, only when people confront what actually happens can they authentically progress. But Our Woody is too savvy a filmmaker to deliver a lecture. While the film is as serious as any Allen work, it’s also as entertaining as the best of his collection because he never forgets that the best comedy begins with tragedy.

Cate Blanchett, in her Oscar-winning tour-de-force, portrays a woman trying to deal with the trauma of significant change. We first see her telling the story of her life to a lucky woman sitting next to her on a cross-country flight. Without drawing breath, she rattles all the way to baggage claim about her fascinating experiences, as if trying to convince herself that it all actually happened. As Allen cleverly reveals in flashbacks, she was once the rich wife of a successful businessman until the world discovered he skipped the rules. Now this product of a carefully protected world - who introduces herself as being “from Park Avenue” rather than simply “from New York” - must confront the realities of getting a job, making ends meet and connecting with people outside her limited scope. Adding to her challenge are complicated relationships with her stepson, who drops out of her life, and her sister, who offers her a place to regroup.

How Allen develops the relationship between the sisters, and the lead character’s love for illusion, pays tribute to Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” an interesting parallel for anyone lucky enough to see Blanchett play Blanche a few years ago in Brooklyn. But Allen and Blanchett do much more than salute a literary classic; they create a woman so magnetic, and so frightening, that she never knows what she will say or do next.

Thanks to Allen’s precise perceptions, and Blanchett’s brilliant portrayal, “Blue Jasmine” dares to challenge our concepts of truth as it entertains in a truthful way.

“Blue Jasmine” is Rated PG-13 for “thematic material and language.” It runs 98 minutes.