Perdido Productions, US
UK Release: 27th September, 2013
DIR Woody Allen
EXEC Leroy Schecter, Adam B. Stern, Jack Rollins
PROD Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson
SCR Woody Allen
DP Javier Aguirresarobe
CAST Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay,Michael Stuhlbarg, Max Casella, Alden Ehrenreich, Tammy Blanchard
Woody Allen is at his finest with Blue Jasmine. Many were disappointed with To Rome with Love last year, as they expected big things from a follow up of the runaway success Midnight in Paris. Blue Jasmine might just be what fans were expecting. It reminds us of Allen’s seemingly infinite capabilities to make great films – 49 so far!
Allen may be on form as a director, he plays the narrative back and forth to great effect, but it is Cate Blanchet’s sterling performance as Jasmine – the socialite fugitive – that blew my mind. She is a character fuelled by excessive amounts of vodka and Xanax, horrified to be stuck inside her body and corrupting life; she is a train-wreck on legs. Of course, this may all sound drastically over the top and exhausting, but Blanchet pulls it together with immanent perfection and knocks me for six.
After being married to a bourgeois lifestyle through her slimy husband, Hal (played adequately by Alec Baldwin), a crook powered by investment, Jasmine embarks on a new life residing with her sister, Ginger, in the pits of San Francisco. Sally Hawkins gives a marvelous performance as Ginger, who works at a grocery store and lives a second-rate life, getting ramshackled by shady men; this is how Jasmine views it at least, hence the divergence between the two ‘sisters’.
Allen’s script is impeccably sharp, weaving in an array of pessimistic thoughts and people around Jasmine; nothing is left unaccounted for. Jasmine struggles to deal with Ginger’s current boyfriend and the thought of going near his ‘mate’, who is eager to get friendly (wink, wink). It is painful to watch her attempt to come to terms with working-class life, having to work as a receptionist for a dentist who, to say the least, has some troubles of his own. Then, a rich, voguish man who falls acutely in love with Jasmine lures her in. His high hopes are to be devastated by consequences of Jasmine’s instabilities and lies. Meanwhile, Ginger is off on her own adventures, once again leading to misfortune. It’s a glamorous series of dismay for nearly all Allen’s characters in this melancholy script.
The film has less humor than Allen’s previous. Indeed, some may find the film too abrasive, and consequently may struggle to find empathy in any of the characters. However, Jasmine is so harrowingly tangible, you’d have to be inhuman not to find any compassion hidden away. This said, Bobby Cannavale, as Chili, Ginger’s apprehensive boyfriend, is occasionally apathetic and brings some form of levity to scenes that would otherwise be screaming with domestic perplexity.
Blue Jasmine is full of characters making the wrong decisions. It’s Streetcar Named Desire terrain as the domestics pile up. It is flawless, in a catastrophic and unforgiving way. Maybe these aren’t the themes people were expecting but that’s just unfortunate. Nevertheless, this is still a very entertaining film, and a beautiful one at that.