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Film Review: Blue Jasmine, Philomena, One Chance, 12 Years A Slave

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Blue Jasmine is the sort of movie I should love. I’m a personal finance/ business news junkie, and this film tells the story of the scorned wife-turned-widow of a Bernie Madoff-like financier. Cate Blanchett puts in a great performance, and Alex Baldwin phones it home playing every other role he’s played recently, except here he’s in finance. It’s an enjoyable movie to watch actors chew up their parts, but if you actually know this sector, it will be too superficial – like a finance story told from the eyes of a 12-year old. I also couldn’t stand how Blanchett’s character, as unlikeable as she is, turns out to be a bigger bad guy over her husband, even in the eyes of her son. If you want a good story set in high finance, check out Arbitrage with Richard Gere or Rogue Trader with Ewan McGregor or Margin Call with Demi Moore or Boiler Room or even Wall Street. Just watch something else, except if you’re a Cate Blanchett fan.

Philomena made me cry, in a good way. Beautifully acted, poignant without being overly sentimental, funny in the face of a tragic story line, this movie is one of my favorites of the season. Judi Dench is so good that I’ll leave it at that, otherwise I’ll sound hyperbolic, and Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote and co-produced, holds his own and then some.

One Chance is a fun movie, a Cinderella-story for today’s reality talent show generation. As a conservatory-trained musician, I loved the fact that this wasn’t just someone who showed up for 15 minutes of fame, but actually sang his whole life and trained in opera in Italy (love the Luciano Pavarotti scene). This is a great choice for when you want a feel good, underdog wins type of movie.

12 Years A Slave is a tough movie to watch. The ensemble cast is almost perfect, though I was so distracted by Brad Pitt showing up in the middle of a period piece. I didn’t know he would have a cameo, so when his character showed up, I spent all the time thinking, “Why did they cast someone who looks like Brad Pitt?” This is not how you want an important movie like this to drive to its conclusion. I loved how subdued and restrained the performances were in roles that easily could have been overdone.


In sum: a big YES to Philomena, a nod to One Chance for entertainment and inspiration value, a nod to 12 Years A Slave for its important theme and great casting minus Brad Pitt, but a NO to Blue Jasmine.

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