Posted on 5/09/14 05:23 AM
If Woody Allen is anything he is certainly prolific. Since 1969, the man has written and directed a film almost every year, and he shows no sings of slowing down. At nearly 50 titles, you'd think he's someone making movies at the height of the american studio system. Allen himself has always firmly believed in quantity over quality, and in last decade especially, he has earned a reputation of being hit and miss. For every 'Midnight in Paris' there's a 'To Rome with Love' or 'Cassandra Dream'. This does, however , mean that every once in while Allen will come come out with one of his greats. 'Blue Jasmine' is one of those films.
We first meet Cate Blanchett's Jasmine/ Jannette Francis on a plane talking incessantly to an elderly woman. We get the impression from the woman's reaction that Jasmine had been saying too much, but by films end we realise how little shes actually told her. Jasmine only wants this woman to know as much as shes wants her to know. The plane is on its way to San Francisco where the former New York socialite Jasmine is going to live with her working-class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) after suffering a nervous breakdown due to her crooked husband's (Alec Baldwin) many extramarital affairs and the revealing of his illegal business practices.
It Being a Woody Allen film, the cast is aptly strong and filled with recognisable faces. Baldwin expertly portrays a truly detestable figure with trasparent insincerity. Hawkins is just as effective as she dawns a new york accent and plays the well meaning and patient sister. Forgotten shock comedian Andrew Dice clay, Peter Saargard and the not-so forgotten comedian Louis C.K (brielfy playing a sex-crazed sound engineer, of a all things), all put in a solid shift. There is, however, no doubt that the stand out is Blanchett herself. To say that the film hinges on her performance is both an understatement and, considering how well she pulls it of, a testament to her ability as an actress.
The film alternates between the scenes in New York before Jasmines breakdown and the scenes in San Francisco after it. And Blanchett too, has to alternate between performances as either the illusion-ed, self-entitled, wealthy trophy wife or the broken ,borderline psychotic shell of a woman whose dream has been shattered. It's fitting,too, that the character is given two names (she was was born Janette and Jasmine was the name given to her by Baldwins character). In many ways, Jasmine is just as much the villain of the piece as Baldwin's ponzy scheming Harold. She spends much of the time desperately trying to restore the facade she just lost to the extent that she deludes herself. Jamsine's hypocritical critiques of Gingers choice in men seems to be based solely on class and status and she herself only falls for a wealthy diplomat(Saarsgard)as she's sees him as a means to get back the lifestyle she obsesses over.Allen represents upper-crust New York as superficial and shallow while the relationships of working-class San Francisco are far more real and meaningful.
The dialogue and satire and are sharp and typically funny. The human relationships are well observed and realistic. It's when the film goes into darker territory, does Blanchett really shine. 'Blue Jasmine' is as much a character study as it is anything else and it benefits greatly from arguably the finest performance Blanchett has ever produced. The ending may be too bleak for some but I appreciate the film not sugarcoating the issue. In a lesser film, Jasmine would reconnect with her sister, find a suitable man and see the value in her new life. Allen is far too aware for that, he instead leaves us with the bitter truth that sometimes people don't change or get better. Jasmine herself could be seen as an allegory for the american financial system which at first 'looked the other way' and refused to see the impending crisis and even after, was too set in its ways to achieve any real reform.
An intelligent and uncompromising dark comedy that's buoyed by a bold statement from Blanchett towards the various awards committees next year.