Woody Allen's latest film Blue Jasmine is a tragic yet comedic masterpiece, amplified by a profound leading performance from Cate Blanchett.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is thrust out of upper class existence when she splits from her felonious financier husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). In her free fall she moves out to San Francisco with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) to start life anew.
Allen's script takes Jasmine; an aloof, pretentious, unlikeable snob; and makes her an engaging and sympathetic character. The disjointed structure of the story too speaks to Jasmine's delicate grip on reality. As Jasmine's coming to terms with her new situation, cues (in the form of music or topics of conversation) jog her into flashbacks of her former life. However, as the story wears on and you're jumping back and forth with the folds of Jasmine's mind. Allen forces you to ask how these recollections are being perceived by those around her. There are moments that we're brought back to the time line of her new life, she is trailing off with sentences she's already spoken, stories she's already told. Jasmine has spent a life of omitting those things that may have called her morality into question, now she's feeling the fallout of apathy. Ginger too, experiences an inescapable behavioural cycle. She unlike Jasmine is drawn to 'good' working class men. Despite the roughness of Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) and later Chilli (Bobby Cannavale) she's suitably adored and taken care of. When she allows herself to be influenced by Jasmine, she makes herself prey for exploitative, predatory characters, in this instance Al (Louis C.K). There's a harsh truth, poetically enunciated that her socialite circle are inherently preying upon those they can take advantage of. Allen's plot and subplot are symbiotic, influencing (and echoing) through on and other, in poetic harmony. However it’s not sustained emotional water torture; Jasmine’s ‘snob out of water’ experience yoyos between tragedy and excruciating, gut-busting laughs.
Formal prowess is not usually a feature of his oeuvre, was a real highlight this time around. The camera is enthralled by Jasmine. There were some intensely intimate scenes as the camera was drawn into the gravitational pull of Jasmine's psychosis. When she's recounting (and possibly recreating projections of) better days gone by there's Allen's painterly fluid staging and steady movement; in these episodes heightened the camera locks into her. The collapsed distance heightens the effect and scrutiny and Blanchett's Jasmine holds up.
Whether its grace and poise of the upper-crust, one percent living or writhing and gasping for air in the reality of working class Blanchett is mesmerising. It’s an epic performance that features perfect comedic timing, affective raw emotional conviction and dizzying balance navigating the tightrope between Jasmine's emotional polarities.
Blanchett is the luminescent star at the centre of Blue Jasmine, and the support is her solar system. Baldwin usual dominant presence is muted as he relaxes into Hal's apathy. Dice Clay's Augie is terrific. Clay's lack of pretence just oozes from his character. He's the voice of reason and sense in the entire piece. C.K's surprising casting as Al, a man interested in Ginger, is delivered with delicacy and frustrating exploitation. And for one shining scene Alden Ehrenreich’s performance as Danny will destroy you.
They say comedy is tragedy with perspective. Allen and Blanchett bring us a tale that hurts so much that it's funny, until it hurts again. Blue Jasmine is beguiling, hilarious and heart-wrenching.
[rating=4] and a half
Directed by: Woody Allen
Written by: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Saarsgard, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K, Alden Ehrenreich
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.