Blue Jasmine ★★★★

I honestly didn't remember how good this was, and how completely unlike Allen's usual work it is (not least because it very plainly occurs in the mundane, unapologetic present day, Madoff allusions and all)... except in the direction and blocking, which is exactly what renders Cate Blanchett's performance profoundly effective and believable rather than an over-the-top showpiece. The biggest asset compared to Allen's other work of recent years is that the screenplay is so well-judged and evenly measured, and no one goes on a trademark Woody Allen Rant about this or that in which characters are forced to speak as the writer-director's mouthpieces. The Louis C.K.-Sally Hawkins pairing is a bit of a tangent, but otherwise we get exactly as much of every character as is needed, and the overall portrait painted is a tragedy made more tragic because it isn't remotely simplistic. It's easy to see why a person would loathe Jasmine, her son in particular, and yet she frequently is spot-on in her assessments of the people surrounding her ("There's a world of men out there who never think about ripping the phone out of the wall!" is a fucking perfect line), and we finally feel sympathy toward nearly every major character in the film, the great sorrow being that those various sympathies are fundamentally incompatible, and that's life isn't it.

This has to be one of the best ensembles ever, with even the totally unlikely Andrew Dice Clay well-cast, but special props to Michael Stuhlbarg's creepy dentist, a sideline I'd completely forgotten about. I would watch a full-length horror film about that guy.