Director: Woody Allen
Blue Jasmine follows Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine, the wife of a high-powered investor (Alec Baldwin) whose money-making schemes are not entirely above board. Once uncovered, their dream lifestyle of beach-houses, charity lunches and wild excess is snatched away from them and Jasmine is left to pick up the pieces. Her husband has committed suicide in prison, her home has been repossessed, all her belongings have been auctioned off and now she is forced to stay with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco, who barely keeps her own ahead afloat financially. Looking down on her sister’s simplistic lifestyle, Jasmine’s snobbery and pomposity is brought into sharp focus as she struggles to deal with the fact that her life can never be the way it was before.
I’ve believed for a long time that Cate Blanchett is one of this generation’s greatest actresses. She already has her Oscar (for The Aviator), but I would be truly surprised if she doesn’t walk away with her second on 2nd March. This performance is more than just a great turn by a fantastic actress; this is one of the finest performances I’ve seen by any actress in the last five years. I’ve not felt this confident about an Oscar win in a long time. The character bubbles with life, oozing with the pretention of her social class and feeling of entitlement. The film’s non-linear structure gives the sharp contrast between the before-and-after Jasmine, allowing Blanchett to flex her muscles on her Decline And Fall. She has become a shell of the woman she once was, dreaming (hallucinating?) of her past life, convinced that one day she will return to it. She pops pills, chatters and gossips, tears those “beneath” her apart with her acerbic tongue, yet behind her façade of faux hope for her triumphant return, she is so badly damaged, so shell-shocked and disturbed, we just know it could never happen.
Bobby Cannavale, Michael Stuhlbarg and Peter Sarsgaard also deliver good performances, though Baldwin’s slimy husband never quite got his opportunity to exhibit the true colours that I, like I expect all of the audience, really wanted to see. When we see Jasmine’s breakdown, and my God do we see it, we only get to see small slices of how her old world reacted to it. Call me a sadist, but I would like to have seen more of that, which I feel would have given the apex of Jasmine’s crisis all the more gravitas. However, this is just a small gripe with a film I felt was a solid vehicle for a truly sensational performance.
Above all of this though, I have come away from Blue Jasmine realising that yes, Woody Allen can make a good film. He can write a good character too; Dianne Wiest, Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow arguably owe their careers to the vivid characters he has drawn for them, but maybe what Woody needs is an editor. He is 67 years old and this is his 49th film. I may not agree with critics on Annie Hall et al, but there are far more misses than hits on his CV. Woody can produce a good film, this much is evident, but are they just mere flukes and anomalies amongst a career of self-aggrandisement? I await his next film to answer that question.