At the tender age of 77 Woody Allen has directed over 40 films. Blue Jasmine is another reminder of how brilliant he can be when creating great characters and when pulling out stunning performances from his actors.
In the new film we follow a New York socialite Jasmine who has just moved to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger. She is virtually a lost soul having lived an affluent lifestyle with her wealthy businessman husband Hal (played by the ever reliable Alec Baldwin). Adjusting to her new life brings many challenges including dealing with her sister’s cocksure boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), developing a relationship with new flame – the elegant diplomat Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) and understanding what it feels like to hold down a job.
Woody Allen has always been inventive with narrative. With Blue Jasmine he shifts between Jasmine’s old life as a socialite and her new life in San Francisco with her sister. This allows Blanchett the freedom to delve deep into the complex psyche of Jasmine. Crucially it allows us to experience the contrasting realities of the different worlds the characters inhabit.
…she was entitled to wealth and prosperity…
The film draws many parallels to the Tennessee Williams classic A Streetcar Named Desire. Just like Blanche Dubois, Jasmine has fallen from grace and has turned to her sister for support. Jasmine and Ginger have lived very different lives. They were both adopted and Jasmine was the more favoured sister. She grew up with the idea she was entitled to wealth and prosperity. On the other hand Ginger had to use her own initiative and capacities to get where she wanted in the world.
The differences in their upbringing have had huge consequences on how they view the world. Jasmine does not take kind to Ginger’s taste in men especially her boyfriend Chili, who, although not as barbaric, strikes many similarities to Stanley Kowalski. What is most akin to A Streetcar is that Jasmine suffers many delusional episodes like Blanche. She is obsessed with how she is perceived and the film explores who we are against who do we want people to see
…she has worked with a whole host of master directors…
There is a lot of awards buzz around Blanchett’s performance. She is one of the best actresses of her generation. Throughout her career she has worked with a whole host of master directors but it is teaming up with Woody Allen where she has really been pushed to her limit.
Blanchett has been very open up about how daunting she found taking on this role but she excels in a performance only a few actresses could give. Living in a world where financial high suits can practically get away with anything we shouldn’t sympathize with Jasmine. She lives off her husband’s money. Her whole schedule involves going to lavish parties and buying lots of expensive things. However when her whole world crumbles around her and she has been brought back down to reality we sympathize with her frustrations, anguish and insecurities.
…The film is packed with the standard Woody Allen wit and humour…
Although the cast isn’t exactly the celebrity guest list, which is what we are accustomed to from Allen, there are some fine supporting performances here. Sally Hawkins brings realism and geniality to the klutzy but charming half sister Ginger. Peter Sarsgaard plays Jasmine’s sophisticated love-interest efficiently and Louis CK does what he does best: make us laugh for the short time he is on screen. However Bobby Cannavale as the dense and loud-mouthed Chili is the standout supporting performance for me. The film is packed with the standard Woody Allen wit and humour we expect and it is the exchanges between Cannavale and Blanchett in particular which are most enjoyable to watch.
Overall Blue Jasmine is intelligent, edgy, emotional and very very funny – one of the finest performances by Blanchett and one of the best films in Allen’s epic filmography.