I don’t know how it’s possible, but Woody Allen just gets better with age. “Blue Jasmine” is unlike anything he’s done before and it’s just plain wonderful. The film is like watching a master-class in acting, writing and directing—all in one sitting. Even the selection of the music is spot-on.
“Blue Jasmine” is the bittersweet story of upscale, sophisticated Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who moves from New York City to San Francisco to live with her lower middle-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and her two young sons.
Allen tells Jasmine’s back-story in bits and pieces. We learn that she was happily married…or so she thought…to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), living the good life of dinner parties, high society and excess. When that world crashes down around her, she has a nervous breakdown. Upon recovery, she makes her way to San Francisco to reinvent herself.
While Jasmine’s head is up in the clouds, Ginger is more practical. Jasmine is not content with who or what she is. Ginger, on the other hand, comes to realize that “good enough” can actually be great.
Allen has given actresses some of their most memorable roles, and with Jasmine he has done so again. Cate Blanchett delivers an absolutely mesmerizing performance. Her Jasmine is at times so delicate, that you really worry for her survival. Her character has a number of facets—self-confidence, eccentricity, fragility, creativity and even mental toughness. Blanchett plays them all to perfection.
Sally Hawkins, not as well-known to American audiences as Blanchett, matches her step for step in a less showy role. She’s completely believable as the hard-luck sister, looking for her prince. Her scenes with Andrew Dice Clay (Augie), Bobby Cannavale (Chili) and Louis C.K (Al)…husband, fiancé and suitor respectively…are brilliant. Each relationship is slightly different and extremely genuine. The actors are also very good, particularly Cannavale. His role is not especially likable, but his fine acting wins you over in the end.
Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight) has a small, but important part as Jasmine’s new-found love interest. We’re not sure if he’s too good to be true, and in a weird way, his relationship with Jasmine ends up mirroring that of Ginger and Al.
Alec Baldwin is impeccably cast as Jasmine’s husband, Hal. It would have been easy to make his character just one color, but Allen and Baldwin give him layers. We find out about his true nature early on in the film, but surprises are still in store.
The film’s conclusion is a bit jarring, but like everything else about “Blue Jasmine,” is utterly perfect. To be true to the character and the film, it couldn’t end any other way.
Woody Allen will always be identified with New York, but his most recent films have been done overseas and in this case, California. This shift seems to have given him a new lease on life and movies. It seemed that “Vicky Cristina Barcelona“and “Midnight in Paris” would be hard to beat, but with “Blue Jasmine” Allen has done something completely different and topped them both.
4 nuggets out of 4