Blue Jasmine – Cate Blanchett plays a woman on the edge in Woody Allen’s latest comedy-drama

Woody Allen is an all-time great filmmaker and always one of the busiest; writing, directing and releasing a film nearly every year. However there can’t be any denying that amongst his very best, some of his films don’t always work. After the amazing Midnight in Paris (2011) for which he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, he made To Rome with Love (2012), another unfortunate misfire. So thank goodness that his latest film can not only be placed in the category of his other great movies, but is in fact amongst the more exceptional of Allen’s recent work.

Shifting his focus to yet another vibrant city, Allen this time chooses to show us the beauty of San Francisco with Blue Jasmine (2013), a story that is also hugely relevant to our society at the moment. The ‘Jasmine’ of the title is a New York socialite called Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) who was happily married to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin). They had it all: huge mansion, beautiful clothes and jewellery, night after night of fabulous dinner parties. But soon the truth about Hal comes out – he was involved in huge amounts of financial fraud. We meet Jasmine at her lowest – Hal has gone to jail, she’s lost her home, her possessions, all her money, and now she has to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in her cramped San Francisco apartment. Jasmine is determined to make a new start though. However on her journey of renewed self-discovery there are many setbacks in store for the naïve and disillusioned Jasmine…

There are many characteristic elements that make a Woody Allen film. Exceptional scripts with great dialogue, beautiful locations, and unassuming yet confident direction, all of which are once again present in Blue Jasmine. One other characteristic of his films is the excellent cast he always chooses to bring his words to life, and Blue Jasmine is a prime example of that exceptional acting at work. The cast features the likes of Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alec Baldwin and Louis C.K., all of whom are perfect in their respective roles. Baldwin is particularly impressive in a more toned-down and serious role that is a lot different from his usual loud and comedic characters. Two others who are also worth a mention are Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale as Ginger and her boyfriend Chili. Cannavale is as usual tempestuous and fiery (although he seems to be in danger of stereotyping himself in shouty, angry roles), yet he is also hilarious. In fact he is one of the characters that gets the most laughs throughout the film. And Sally Hawkins as Ginger is sweet and headstrong, if a little naïve like her sister. She is also completely compelling to watch (although it took me a while to get used to her accent as I’m so used to hearing how she talks in Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)).

However for all of these great actors there is no denying that this is Cate Blanchett’s film. Her performance is so perfect, so realistic, that you almost forget this is a film you’re watching and not a real woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Blanchett achieves something amazing with her performance – although Jasmine is a selfish, money-obsessed socialite, Blanchett makes us care and sympathise with her through her emotional portrayal of a woman who has known nothing beyond the two doors of her massive home and her confined yet extravagant life. Blanchett is also funny when she needs to be, showing us the humour of this woman who has her priorities all wrong and who blindly carries on in the hope that something good will happen without her actually doing anything.

Allen also uses this balance of humour and emotion throughout his excellent script, creating a story that isn’t just funny but that also shows us the serious side of things. Again, as Blanchett does with her performance, he doesn’t make a point of chastising Jasmine for her way of life, instead making her a character that we can identify with and who we realise can’t cope in a normal situation, because her situation hasn’t been normal for a very long time.

Once again Allen has managed to create a charming story about something that is sad, yet funny, and that contains thoroughly compelling characters. Along with his great script Allen also uses his direction and camera to portray San Francisco in all its warm and vibrant colours and tones, showing us why he loves it and in turn making us fall in love with it too. More relevant and also more heartbreaking than Midnight in Paris, it mixes the light with the dark, showing the humour in the serious but without taking away from the realistic incidents and emotions of the story. All of the cast are excellent and superbly funny, and it features one of Cate Blanchett’s finest performances to date as a broken woman desperately trying to cling on to some semblance of her previous existence. I always feel like Allen’s films are like a big cosy hug, and this is the biggest and cosiest hug of all his films in recent years. If your heart hasn’t melted by the end of watching it, then you must be dead inside. Just a purely beautiful, beautiful film which I never wanted to end…

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~ by square-eyed-geek on October 12, 2013.

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