Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Andrew Dice Clay, Richard Conti, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Annie McNamara, Charlie Tahan, Bobby Canavale, Louis C.K, Peter Sarsguard, Michael Stuhlbarg
Running time: 98 minutes
The life of Jasmine (Blanchett) grows increasingly tumultuous and complicated when she moves in with her sister (Hawkins) in San Fransisco after a messy divorce that left her bankrupt and on the verge of breakdown.
A whole host of possibilities lies within a new Woody Allen picture. The man who has written over seventy films and helmed just under fifty has, for some odd reason, his fair share of detractors and general auto-pilot haters who will at every conceivable opportunity spew their anti-Allen filth everywhere they go. But I’m not one such person. His less accomplished films still hold, for me, a certain charm that’s not always seen in his genre of choice, and there’s no doubt he cares deeply about everything he does. Regardless, Blue Jasmine is already being lauded by critics as his best film in years, and seems to have at least partially escaped the clutches of prejudice.
The film is structured in a way that shows us two moments of Jasmine’s life simultaneously. Through a series of sporadic flashbacks to her marriage to Hal – played by regular Allen contributor Alec Baldwin – we’re slowly filled in on the events that led to Jasmine’s current crumbling life where she’s living with her sister while grinding through a job as a dentist’s receptionist. What struck me was just how clever Woody Allen really is. His knack for snappy dialogue is nearly unparalleled, in my view rivaling only the likes of Aaron Sorkin (which is something considering Sorkin is my favourite writer), and to so effortlessly interweave stories and character paths to such breathless and hilarious climaxes is really a lot easier said than done. Throughout the course you’ll catch yourself both unwittingly grinning like a kid or being strangely hypnotized by Blanchett’s incessant natterings.
On that note, most of the focus has been on Cate Blanchett’s performance, which really is pretty spectacular. The quality is that she doesn’t simply step into the title role; she fully embraces it. She becomes Jasmine. She is Jasmine. Regular readers of this blog (if they exist) may note that I always bring up Daniel Day-Lewis when discussing excellent acting (for good reason) and I’ll do it again here. The simple reason that Day-Lewis is so good is because he physically and emotionally becomes his characters. When he talks he isn’t just citing the dialogue on the page, he’s speaking through the character’s thought-process. Cate Blanchett as Jasmine is akin to that. When she opens her mouth we believe it’s Jasmine talking, not Cate.
There’s a noticeably darker edge to the drama than much of Allen’s more recent and famous work; say last year’s quirky To Rome With Love or the undisputed wickedly funny classic Annie Hall. The laughs still come cleverly and often, but they don’t dictate the tone of the narrative – that, instead, falls on Jasmine’s slow deterioration into madness. This brings into question one of the great beauties of film: interpretation. No interpretation is wrong, of course, no matter how outrageous and regardless of what the director/writer/creator intended. Is Deckard a replicant? That’s up to the individual, just as in the case of Blue Jasmine, if you want to look deep into the recesses of the drama, you could interpret it as a pointed study of schizophrenia. Is Jasmine actually just crazy? Is she ever really talking to anyone or just mindlessly droning on to herself? Is everything in the present simply all in her head? There’s no way of knowing for sure, but that’s where said beauty lies. There are hints and clues along the way but it’s up to the individual to finish the puzzle.
But that’s all about preference. It’s not necessary to look into the film in such depth to find enjoyment, what with the surface bubbling with such wit, smarts and glistening dialogue, further matched with some fantastic performances and a really seductive swing soundtrack. Yet really, in the end, it’s all about Blanchett’s performance. She’s already being widely tipped for Oscar success in five months’ time – there may be something to that.