Raise your stoli martini with a twist of lime to the greatest performance in Cate Blanchett’s diverse career!
Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s bitter-bitter take on the 1%, and a dark decline into mania. Wealthy socialite, the titular Jasmine (Blanchett) is in dire straits. She leaves the pent houses of So-ho and holiday homes of Vermont to shack up with her lower class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in downtown San Fran. Through some intelligent and well-timed flashbacks we begin to see the troublesome life around Jasmine unravel, from her cad of a husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) to the way she treats her sister and then partner Augie (Andrew Dice Clay).
These sequences are interspersed throughout the tumultuous present. The film actually begins with Jasmine raving to an elderly woman as she steps off a plane to be greeted by Ginger. Jasmine seems enamored by her life and the ritzy stories she tells, although the lady is only politely tuned in.
Our first impression of Jasmine is a confident, composed and extremely optimistic one. Consider how Woody directs Jasmine, he gives us this impression of her, and then deconstructs it. What will Jasmine do in her new location? Her sister adores her to a degree, but Jasmine demeans everything around her, driving away friend and foe alike. She wants to return to study but her flights of fancy change like the wind. In truth she is despondent and in deep denial. She takes her frustrations out on those around her, particularly Ginger’s new lover Chili (Bobby Cannavale), who is painfully blue collar, so much so that he usually wears literally that.
There is something about Blue Jasmine that cuts deep and leaves a numbing pain. Woody has imbued the film with such a bitter and depressing tone, it in fact toes the line with thanks to some comedic moments and supporting cast (Louie CK etc.) but only just.
Blue Jasmine reveals both a deeply disturbing mystery surrounding Jasmine’s life and persona but also comments heavily on social status and family – the dynamic between the sisters is something only Woody could conjure up. The film explores Ginger’s life also, but this is less effective or interesting comparable to Jasmine’s quagmire.
The most disturbing thing of all however is Jasmine’s deep mania. Despite what is happening around her and her personal situation, she remains a figure of class and poise – despite the fact she babbles and paces about like a lunatic, popping pills and downing glass after glass of vodka martinis. Blanchett is a scary protagonist and a deeply sad one, her fascinating train-wreck of a character pulls us through Blue Jasmine until the final dark moments.
The darker side of Woody is on full display in this unforgiving character-fueled tale of woe and psychosis amidst class warfare and traumatic history, but it steps through all this with the breezy light-hearted pacing we all know and love from the man. Blue Jasmine is one of his best.
[rating=4] and half
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton on Twitter here: @Kwenton
Kwenton Bellette is extremely passionate about Asian film and the resurgence of new waves taking place in Korea, Japan and China in the last 10 years. He joined the global site Twitchfilm in 2009, is the artistic director of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival is Melbourne and currently studies a film masters degree at Melbourne University. He is very excited to raise further awareness of the what he thinks is the most exciting film industry in the world.