TCFF 2013: Day 1 – A Very ‘Blue Jasmine’

Michael Moore, Michael Stuhlbarg

Michael Moore and Michael Stuhlbarg Q&A after “Blue Jasmine” | Jane Boursaw Photo

The 9th Annual Traverse City Film Festival kicked off in a big way tonight with the opening night film, “Blue Jasmine.” Woody Allen’s dramedy will most assuredly earn star Cate Blanchett an Oscar nomination, if not the golden statuette itself.

She plays Jasmine, a Park Avenue socialite whose life takes a dramatic downturn after the deceptions of her Bernie Madoff-like husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). Forced to crash with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), a grocery store clerk in San Francisco, Jasmine self-medicates with a cocktail of vodka and Xanax, teetering on the brink of hysteria and panic as she attempts to put her life back together.

Her new world is a rude awakening after living a life of luxury in New York City, complete with a gorgeous pad on the East Side and all the jewelry she could ever want. It reminds me of another film that screened at the State Theatre – the real-life documentary “The Queen of Versailles.”

Adding insult to injury is Ginger’s Stanley Kowalski-like boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) and ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), a construction worker who holds a grudge against Jasmine because her husband Hal swindled him out of his life’s savings of $200,000.

Blue Jasmine

Sally Hawkins and Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine” | Sony Pictures Classics

Attending the screening tonight was Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays a San Francisco dentist who employs Jasmine as his receptionist, and whose attempts at romancing her go badly.

A few highlights from the Q&A (in which Michael Moore revealed that the role of Jerry Lundegaard in “Fargo” came down to him and William H. Macy!):

Michael Stuhlbarg

Michael Stuhlbarg | Jane Boursaw Photo

On getting the “Blue Jasmine” job: Stuhlbarg knew nothing about any of the other characters or stories (apropos for Allen films). Woody Allen messenger’d a script to Stuhlbarg, who read it, then gave the script back to the messenger.

On working with Woody Allen: “He has a very strong idea of what he wants. I just tried to show up and do my job and not get fired.”

On his first foray into acting: In an act of serendipity, Stuhlbarg first acted when he was a senior in high school, in Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water.”

On being in Traverse City. “Everyone’s been so lovely and genuine … my grandfather was in love with Traverse City and wanted to retire here.”

On working with Steven Spielberg in “Lincoln” (Stuhlbarg played George Yeaman): “It was a remarkable time, and I felt honored to be a part of it.”

On working with great directors: “Mr. Scorsese (Stuhlbarg plays Arnold Rothstein on the HBO show “Boardwalk Empire”) loves to participate. Mr. Spielberg lets you do your thing. Mr. Allen knows what he wants and asks you to find your way within that. All of these directors are in love with the process … with a capital L.”

On working with the Coen Brothers in “A Serious Man”: “I would have been glad to do anything with them. Joel and Ethan are wonderful guys. They’re very zen about life, in general. And they’re very generous and let you do your thing.”

After the movie, folks crowded out into Front Street for the after-party, which featured dozens of food and beverage vendors, musicians and revelers.

Kate O'Hara and Tony Cosentino

Kate O’Hara and Tony Cosentino | Jane Boursaw Photo

Tom, Frances and Sandy Carroll

Tom, Frances and Sandy Carroll, here from Grand Rapids for their 5th T.C. Film Festival | Jane Boursaw Photo