It's no secret that we unabashedly, unashamedly love Woody Allen, and will go see every new movie he releases—but that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of stinkers. For every late-period gem like Vicky Cristina Barcelona or the criminally-underrated Cassandra's Dream, you get tonally-wrong stuff like Whatever Works or giant turd Melinda and Melinda. Now that Woody has released the trailer for his latest film, Blue Jasmine (watch it below), we asked ourselves: will we be getting Good Woody or Bad Woody?
Just like we did with the hit-and-miss To Rome With Love, we examined the trailer through the lens of Woody's past films—don't even bother comparing late-period Woody with anything pre-Deconstructing Harry, trust us on that one. Below, we broke it down into positives and negatives:
- Pro: Cate Blanchett. The trailer may have all the hallmarks of an Allen film (snappy dialogue, rich people problems, jazzy soundtrack, neuroses galore), but Blanchett is very clearly the focus of attention—it comes across more like a character study than anything else. This is Blanchett's first role in an Allen film, and she already seems to fit into his universe perfectly, drinking Stoli and having Xanax anxiety. Allen has also done a lot of his best work with strong female protagonists (Hannah And Her Sisters, Alice).
- Pro: Allen's last film To Rome With Love suffered from too many weak plotlines that either revisited old Woody tropes (the Jesse Eisenberg love triangle) or just were dead-in-the-water (Penelope Cruz did nothing! She was wasted!). This actually bodes well for this movie, as Woody has been on a bit of a streak of following up bad movies with goods ones recently: Match Point came after Melinda And Melinda, Midnight In Paris followed You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.
- Con: Rehashing plots. At this point, it seems like Woody has two or three stories that he keeps trying to perfect by re-doing the main beats in slightly different locations or with slightly younger characters (for example, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point). There seems to be some thematic similarities between this film and the dreadful Whatever Works which worries us—although that film gravitated much more toward the farcical (this seems more dramatic), and starred Larry David (and was terrible).
- Con: Stunt casting. Every late period Woody Allen film has a bit of this, but in recent years, it's gotten really out of control (see: To Rome With Love, Anything Else, Tall Dark Stranger). We can't blame major actors for wanting to have an Allen film on their resume, but do we really need to stuff every film with 14 characters (okay, this one has 8 'names,' but still)?
- Neutral: Andrew Dice Clay. It seemed out of leftfield when it was announced he'd be in this film, and his presence in the trailer is still kind of bizarre. But maybe this'll be the good kind of bizarre, like guilt-ridden Colin Farrell in Cassandra's Dream (and not the bad kind, like Will Ferrell in Melinda).
- Pro: Louis C.K. (he pops up briefly at 1:22), accompanied by the line, "You choose losers. That's what you think you deserve."
- Pro: Scummy Alec Baldwin is far preferable to imaginary Alec Baldwin (see: To Rome With Love).
- Con: No sign of Woody Allen. A lot of people may see this as a pro, but we kind of like his new thing where he takes a small supporting role and stammers a bit without groping anyone. Nobody pulls off the "Woody Allen-type" role like him, too.
- Pro: Sally Hawkins. Criminally underrated actress who was amazing in Happy Go Lucky. We can already smell a Best Supporting Actress nod.
- Pro: Allen is taking a break from his extended cinematic European tour to return to America. The film is split between NYC and San Francisco—and it is the latter location, a place Woody hasn't spent too much time in his career, that really gets us excited.
So overall, we're much more excited about this film than we were for To Rome With Love. This one seems like a drama with a little bit of comedy coloring, compared to that light comedic truffle. If Blanchett is as good as she seems, and the movie is focused on her story as it seems, we could be in store for one of the best late-period Allen films yet. But as ever, if it's all dislikable cliched characters bemoaning their angst, we could be in store for Anything Else II: The Curse Of Melinda And Melinda.