Written and directed by Woody Allen
Woody Allen has made a name for himself in film by writing and directing quirky comedies, that center on the neurotic behavior of his protagonists. Often, Allen was the neurotic protagonist (most famously in the multi-Oscar winning Annie Hall), but in recent years he has either kept himself to supporting roles or just behind the camera. With Blue Jasmine, we see a whole new kind of neurosis in the character of Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), a performance that does not call for classic Allen quirk, but a sad and heartbreaking descent into deluded madness.
Jasmine has lived a life of comfort and luxury. She married successful financier Hal (Alec Baldwin) who has given her a marriage filled with real estate, jewels, furs and parties with Manhattan’s elite. Once Jasmine finds out that Hal has been misbehaving in activities of Ponzi scheme proportions, the film poses the question of rather Jasmine turned a blind eye to her husband’s illegal behavior for the sake of riches or was truly kept in the dark.
Jasmine is a pill-popping, Stoli martini drinking mess. She is forced to move to San Francisco with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine cares greatly for her sister, but there is a distance in their relationship. Ginger has lived a harder life than Jasmine. She lives in a small apartment with her two sons from her marriage to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) and is constantly associating herself with men who Jasmine does not deem suitable enough for her sister. Upon Jasmine’s stay, Ginger is dating car mechanic Chili (Bobby Canavale), who Jasmine does not care for and vice versa.
The structure of Blue Jasmine is what makes it an unique Woody Allen experience. The film is told in a non-linear structure, beginning with Jasmine’s trip to San Francisco then going backwards to show her marriage with Hal. More so, these flashbacks are not used merely to catch the audience up on Jasmine’s past life, but serve as a way to show Jasmine’s desire to go back to her previous life. Moving into Ginger’s apartment in San Francisco certainly is a culture shock for Jasmine.
As always, Allen has assembled a terrific cast led by the phenomenal Blanchett. Jasmine is not always likeable, but Blanchett makes her compelling. Sure, she spends the film longing for her life of excess, but it is sad to watch Jasmine not know how to function outside of her cushy Manhattan life. This is the kind of role that could have called for scene chewing histrionics but the sophistication of Blanchett’s performance lies in her ability to make her performance both frustrating and heartbreaking. The supporting cast, especially Andrew Dice Clay, is uniformly great. Louis CK is not given much to do but he is an inspired casting choice for an Allen film.
Allen is regarded as one of the film industry’s finest writer and directors. His filmography, as of late, is often uneven but when he makes a good film, he makes a great one. At 77, Allen still releases films annually and continues to take risks. Midnight in Paris was a fanciful treat for Allen fans and Blue Jasmine is a film that, while comical at times, is much more serious than his fans are used to. Still, this is one of the best films of the year and Blanchett is sure to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Could Allen have found his new muse?
– Matthew Passantino