Free master class in acting. That is what Cate Blanchett offers in her amazing turn in Woody Allen’s latest film, Blue Jasmine. She is a thrill to watch as a New York socialite who has become unhinged after finding out her very successful husband was actually a crook and having a string of affairs. All this renders Jasmine French (Cate Blanchett – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Aviator) a pill popping, martini drinking emotional wreck who is apt to talking to herself as she remembers her life before the downfall. To watch this extremely talented actress take this loony, fragile character and make her someone we are interested in watching on screen is a wonder.
Being flat broke, single and living in a crowded apartment are not conditions that Jasmine French is used to. Jasmine’s life has fallen apart after her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin – from television’s 30 Rock), a rich businessman, was revealed to be a crook, went to jail, committed suicide by hanging, and Jasmine had to sell all her possessions to pay back the government.
Due to her not having any money Jasmine is forced to move in with her estranged sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins – Layer Cake, An Education), in San Francisco. The cramped quarters, Ginger’s boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale – The Bone Collector, The Other Guys) always being around and Ginger’s two kids are all not things that Jasmine is used to. The sisters’ relationship has been strained since Hal lost all of Ginger and her ex-husband Augie’s (Andrew Dice Clay – Pretty in Pink, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane) money.
Self-medicating with Xanax and martinis doesn’t work as Jasmine is still preoccupied with memories of her former life. Still, she tries to recover by deciding on a career as an interior decorator, which she will study online, but first she has to take a computer course. To support herself Jasmine works during the day as a receptionist for a dentist. Even this becomes complicated when Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg – A Serious Man, Men in Black 3) continues to make passes at her.
It seems like things might be taking a turn for the better after Jasmine and Ginger attend a party and both sisters meet new men. Ginger is quite taken with a nice guy, Al (American Hustle, The Invention of Lying) and Jasmine with a rich diplomat, Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard – Green Lantern, Jarhead). As is typical with Jasmine, lies and deceit end up ruining things for both sisters.
Many watchers of the film will be reminded of the story behind the classic film a Streetcar Named Desire. This is like an updated and Woody Allen version of that tale. Woody Allen’s (Annie Hall, Midnight in Paris) decision to jump back and forth in time is perfect for the film as it leaves the viewer just as unstable as its lead character. The dialogue is typical Woody Allen in that it is witty, wild and off center. The man has always had an ability to get at the heart of the matter whether through comedy or drama and age has not diminished his sharpness.
Cate Blanchett once again demonstrates her talent, but this time, maybe more than any other time in her career, she also shows an incredible fearlessness. She does not seem to be rendered hesitant in her acting by the fact that she is portraying a character that is not very likable. Jasmine is a wreck who we don’t feel sympathy for because she is a liar, a dreadful snob and completely self absorbed. Yet despite the fact that we find Jasmine hard to like we do end up feeling sorry for her. Because of Blanchett’s impeccable timing we also see past all this to find some humour in her sorry life.
All this adds up to Woody Allen’s best film in a while and a probable addition to Cate Blanchett’s Oscar Award collection.
-Notes From the Red Carpet
-Blue Jasmine Cast Press Conference