The title of Woody Allen’s new film, Blue Jasmine, is a little deceiving. It should simply be called Acting: The Movie. Incredible performances drive a tale of family, class and psychosis.
A New York socialite, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), stripped of her wealth, moves to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) after having a breakdown.
Allen expertly navigates the drama through the entitled world of the wealthy and working class living. There is an excellent parallel between Jasmine and Ginger, who are facing similar ordeals, yet coping differently. Both women are essentially defined by their relationships with men; they have endured financial woes and are orphans who were adopted into the same family as children. Ginger is demure, loving and kind, but she’s vulnerable to being manipulated by men (and Jasmine), but resiliently pushes on with her life. In comparison, Jasmine frantically clings to the past and is in a constant state of mental implosion. Allen has crafted an acute dual character study of emotional resilience. You can’t help but feel that Allen is pointing out how ill equipped the upper tiers of society are when faced with responsibility, but regardless of status, the complexities of relationships still flummox the psyche of the two female characters. Repetition does stall the film a little as it riffs on story points that are made clear from the outset, such as the explanation of Jasmine’s financial woes.
There is a difficulty curve portraying characters that represent “the 1 per cent” and seeking sympathy with their fall from grace. Allen has the decency not to beg for compassion for the elite and Blanchett genuinely depicts Jasmine as entitled, vapid and narcissistic. Watching her character succumb to madness is fascinating and Blue Jasmine plays like an origin story for a crazy cat lady and Blanchett’s performance is amazing.
Blanchett is only as good as the actors who support her and there’s not a weak link in the chain. Hawkins performance emotionally grounds the film and she is the balm to Blanchett’s eccentricities. Alec Baldwin plays the ideal preppy Wall Street type while Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale indulge the bravado of working-class male egos. Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard make small but memorable appearances to fill out a fantastic ensemble that all devour and elevate Allen’s conversational dialogue with ease.
Blue Jasmine is a complex examination of mental endurance and degradation. It’s a slice of a complicated life that’s candid thanks to remarkable performances.
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies