(Video on Demand, January 2014) If the mark of a great actor is making us sympathize with character we would otherwise find exasperating, then Cate Blanchett truly deserves honors for her performance in Blue Jasmine. The story of a woman struggling with life after the end of her lavish marriage to a convicted Wall Street fraudster, Blue Jasmine is a character study more than anything else; Blanchett faithfully reflects the multiple contradictory facets of the scripted protagonist and the result can be as affecting as they are maddening. Setting Blue Jasmine in San Francisco after a long series of films taking place in Europe, Allen doesn’t do much with the city, but keeps the focus on the idiosyncrasies of his lead character, and the interactions she has with the ones surrounding her. Despite glimmers of redemption, it doesn’t end well, or even as anyone would hope: By the time the film ends, it’s a mercy that we’re not shown more, because there is no happy ending possible. And yet, despite the lead character’s self-destroying flaws, Blanchett keeps our sympathy throughout. Allen’s self-effacing direction helps, and the able supporting cast knows their place. While Blue Jasmine‘s lack of a conclusion leaves without satisfaction, the journey has its moments.