“Blue Jasmine” (2013)
Main image courtesy of Sony Picutres Classics
In Woody Allen’s lastest film, we learn a lot about Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) in the first five minutes of the film, when she carries on a monologue with a complete stranger on a plane. She is on her way to San Francisco to move in with her sister. She was used to living the good life, with a house on Park Avenue and a summer home in the Hamptons. Then life drastically changes, and she no longer has the means to sustain the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed. Jasmine and her sister, Ginger, played by the wonderful Sally Hawkins, were both adopted. Jasmine seemed to have everything in life, a loving husband, money and a lifestyle where all she worried about was what designer dress to wear to the latest charity party. Ginger, on the other hand, has always felt she was the lesser of the two sisters. She didn’t go to college, got divorced, works in a grocery store and has a highly opinionated boyfriend named Chili (Bobby Cannavale).
Jasmine is the kind of person who can give her sister a compliment and make it seem as if she is putting her down. She tells her sister how horrible the flight was, even though she flew first class. She carries herself like she is better than everyone else, even though she is homeless and has to rely on the kindness of her sister. Jasmine feels that Ginger is always picking the worst men to have relationships with, and she instantly clashes with Chili.
Jasmine is also harboring a dark secret, as she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She re-lives scenes of her former life in her mind while she zoning in and out of reality, regardless of where she is – as she speaks to characters that no longer exist. We relive these moments, right along with Jasmine, seeing what her past life with her rich investor husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin) was like.
Unlike Allen’s last two movies, “Midnight in Paris” (2011) and “To Rome with Love” (2012), this film is very serious in tone, with only a few lines of dialogue bringing any sort of laughter. This is a study of a character that is slowly sinking into madness, caused by her inability to accept reality and her wiliness to live in the past.
Blanchett gives a tour de force performance that will surely get her a nomination for the Best Actress Oscar. It’s an incredible portrayal of a woman whose life is slowly falling apart, right before our eyes. It would have been particularly easy for Blanchett to go over the top in this role, but she keeps it internal, where you see the pain in her eyes.
I have always liked Sally Hawkins, but this role doesn’t give her much to do, other than be the putdown, supporting sister who is willing to change her life to make Jasmine happy. The rest of the supporting cast does an admirable job. Alec Baldwin plays Jasmine’s husband with an arrogant tone that comes off as almost slimy, which wasn’t much of a stretch. Bobby Cannavale as Ginger’s boyfriend and Louis C.K. as a potential suitor for Ginger are decent in their roles. The surprise of the cast is Andrew Dice Clay, who plays Ginger’s ex-husband, gives an astonishing performance. He doesn’t have a particularly big role, but every time he is on the screen he takes over. His confrontation scene with Jasmine near the end of the film is something to see.
While watching Blanchett on silver screen in this role gives an amazing performance, I did not care for this film though overall. There isn’t any character growth for Jasmine, she basically is the same person that she was at the start of the film, not willing to accept that her life has changed. Ginger, after exploring her options, is back to the same life she had at the beginning. We spend an hour and a half with these characters and all we really learn about them is in the first ten minutes of the film.
The script is in the typical Woody Allen style, with character speaking much faster and wittier than most people do, but unlike a lot of his comedies, this film has a weight of overriding sadness to it. You feel that these people in this film will never be happy. The plot, which jumps all over the place, seems to be a device just to give Blanchett scenes to act in, as opposed to moving along the story. My feeling about this film is that Allen could have written and directed it in his sleep, and looking at the finished product he may have done so.
My Rating: Bargain Matinee