Bold, confident, clever and earnest defines Woody Allen’s 43rd directed film. Yes 43! If I could make one movie I’d feel accomplished. He’s certainly one of the greats and he’s still got it at 77 years old. Blue Jasmine is a clever and sometimes harrowing look into a character from high society New York as she stumbles down the social ladder. Boasting an Oscar Worthy performance from Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, Woody proves he still can deliver.
I suppose most people struggle through a mid-life-crisis and it’s one of the most revealing trials an individual can go through. This time in a characters life proves to be interesting and sometimes mesmerizing if the script allows it. As Jasmine loses everything and stumbles from high society in New York she is forced to move in with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in San Francisco. Jeanette is her real name but I guess it wasn’t sophisticated enough so she changed it to Jasmine. That probably paints a pretty good picture of her. It’s Jasmine’s relationships that are often the most revealing of her character. How she handles situations is what proves to reveal her true self. A few more intimate scenes with just herself would have fleshed her out even deeper and delivered an incredibly profound character. Most of the interactions are shown in flashbacks. The ones with her husband Hal (Alec Bladwin) are the most powerful as we begin to understand Jasmine’s motivations and how she has fallen so far. Was it bad luck or her own fault?
Woody clearly still has enough ideas in his head to explore. The Idea of exploring the Identity of character as pompous and nearly unlikable as Jasmine is sort of brilliant. Yes its been done before but not with Woody Allen at the helm in a way like this. It’s almost a cruel way of looking at this character and you can’t help but watch. Even with the scripts charm and sometimes hilarious characters Allen’s film are known for, there is a sense of dread here. The darkness stems from Cate Blanchett’s deep and soulful performance. She was completely zoned in and actually became this character. Everything from her facial movements to her way of speaking and communicating is superbly done and intricately timed in scenes. Jasmine’s upper class pretension is sometimes more haunting than when she is cast out into the working class. She absolutely dreads the idea of becoming a receptionist. There’s certainly dark comedy elements to this which I absolutely love and Woody absolutely nails the direction. Jasmine’s character arc is carefully executed here which is the greatest part of it all. Does she eventually grow as a person? I won’t spoil it but the right choice was made as it profoundly speaks to the identity of a character like Jasmine.
Character studies are not easy to do and certainly can lose focus easily. Blue Jasmine’s narrative is slightly suspect and has a few missteps along the way. The flow of story isn’t always spot on as it jumps from the present to the past often. Some hit more than others and that’s because of the structure and content of the script. The editing just isn’t quite right to make the story flow. However, the flashbacks shown are very needed to deliver growth to characters and it’s well done by shedding light on certain relationships. It just doesn’t bring the characters to a completely new level than what we’re seeing in the present.
The supporting characters fill out the story as well as being fleshed out as individuals. Woody has a way of making small conversations intimate among its characters while keeping charm and humor throughout. The humor is lighthearted and witty as most of Woody’s films are. The dark comedy elements work best as it meshes humor and the seriousness of the characters. Standout supporting characters were Andrew Dice Clay as Augie and Bobby Canavale as Chili who completely nail their scenes and deliver the laughs this film needs. Everyone brings their A game though and you’ll be sure to laugh many times with this mix of characters and direction. The tone of the film rarely loses focus which is impressive considering the seriousness along with witty characters. The film’s flaws are covered up by Blanchett as she is in nearly every scene and steals every damn one as well. I could see her bowing on Oscar night if someone doesn’t deliver big this fall. She’s mesmerizing. This film has a lot of very good things going for it, just nothing great.
Beaming with charm and a sharp character study, Woody Allen has delivered a film that explores identity, class, and culture. Full of colorful characters and a witty script, this is one of Woody’s best and most impressive in years. Balancing a delicate character like Jasmine and showing us what the effects of greed and corruption are is quite masterfully done. Blanchett carries the film and brings it to a new level with her powerhouse performance (I can’t stress enough how much her performance matters here). What’s most striking to me is the exploration of identity in a character like Jasmine. Has she always been neurotic and pretentious or was she clouded by high society and sent into a whirlwind she can’t escape. While it isn’t extremely profound in its character study, it’s fairly thought provoking and manages to engage its audience into a claustrophobic state just like Jasmine. At the end of it all there was never anything powerfully moving, but that doesn’t mean the ride was weak. In fact, nearly the opposite because as we long to see Jasmine grow and want her to get her life on track, there’s no catharsis for the audience. We long for a release as she does. It’s profound in that sense because we can relate to her as we watch. Get out and see Blue Jasmine as soon as you can! It boasts the best performance and character of the year from Cate Blanchett while also meshing an old school style of filmmaking which brings it to an entertaining level.