Starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins & Peter Saarsgard
To label Blue Jasmine as Woody Allen’s finest piece of work in over twenty years undersells the film somewhat, considering the peculiar zig-zagging quality of his output. Allen’s two greatest weapons when it comes to storytelling are his characters and the words that they speak, and with his latest offering these two main strengths shine through radiantly. Jasmine (Blanchett) is one of Allen’s greatest creations and her fall from grace after her husband’s fraudulent antics are exposed is funny, touching and excruciating in equal measure.
After being stripped of her extremely comfortable lifestyle, Jasmine resorts to moving into her adopted sister Ginger’s (Hawkins) modest San Francisco apartment with her tail firmly between her legs. As well as her Louis Vuitton suitcases, Jasmine brings a whole load of baggage, from self-absorbed delusion to mental fragility, and it’s not long before she becomes an emotional wrecking ball that sways towards anyone that comes close to her. Blanchett is arguably at her career best as the stubborn lead and her explosive performance mixed with Allen’s perfectly pitched writing makes for a potent cinematic cocktail.
Every character in Blue Jasmine feels like a living. breathing human that has a real life off-screen, and this is a masterstroke on Allen’s part. It’s also refreshing that none of the ensemble is portraying either a replica of Woody Allen himself or playing the embodiment of one of his sexual fantasies (Cough! Vicky Cristina Barcelona, cough!) Not a single character here doesn’t feel fleshed-out, except for perhaps Hal (Baldwin) who seems to be devoid of any redeemable features. It’s a film where audiences will be able to choose their favourite character, whether it’s the wonderfully warm-hearted Ginger, tragic gentle giant Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), wise-guy cry-baby Chili (Bobby Cannavelle) or sexually inappropriate dentist Dr Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg). The ever-lovable Louis CK even makes an appearance as bumbling sound-technician Al, but when he’s on screen its hard to convince yourself that you’re not watching an episode of Louie. Jasmine is far from being a likeable character, but she has so many believable characteristics that she’s wholly worthy of our sympathy
Story-wise the film isn’t exactly riveting and it doesn’t have a whole lot more to say than Young Adult did last year. For this reason it’s not quite on par with Allen’s career-defining work such as Annie Hall, but in terms of character development and performances the film is a complete and utter triumph and highly likely to be showered with plaudits come awards season.
It would be tempting to call Blue Jasmine its creator’s return to form, if it wasn’t for the sad likelihood that it will be followed by yet another nose dive.