Photo by Merrick Morton © 2013 Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
BLUE JASMINE Movie Review
2013, 98 minutes
Review by Joshua Handler
I will start by saying that Blue Jasmine is one of Woody Allen‘s best films in recent memory. Much of this is due to his excellent screenplay, but the majority of the film’s success lies with Cate Blanchett‘s astounding performance. The film follows a formerly rich New York housewife, Jasmine (Blanchett), who moves in with her working class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in San Francisco. As she stays longer and longer with Ginger in this lower class lifestyle, she begins to crumble.
Cate Blanchett gives what is one of the best performances of her career to date. That’s saying something, as she is one of the best actresses working today. Blanchett lives and breathes Jasmine. She is masterful at portraying a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Jasmine is happy when living the high life in New York. She’s surrounded by rich people and nice things. Yet that is a very fragile existence because as soon as things start to go sour, Jasmine begins to break and slowly crumbles as the film goes on. Blanchett is unlikable and absolutely frightening.
This is an interesting role for her, as she normally plays confident characters such as Queen Elizabeth I and Katherine Hepburn. Her performance in this film furthers my belief that Blanchett is one of the finest actresses working today. If this does not earn her a Best Actress nomination, I’ll be shocked. The supporting cast includes Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, and others. They all turn in fine performances, but this is Blanchett‘s show.
The first half of the film is very similar to A Streetcar Named Desire. It follows it so closely that I was worried that it was going to be almost a direct copy. Then Woody, not Williams, kicks in and the story goes right off into Woody Allen territory, not Streetcar territory, which makes the story far more interesting. What sets this film apart from Allen’s other recent films story-wise is its unpredictability and penetrating psychological study of Jasmine. This is Allen’s first character study in a very long time and it is refreshing to see him in this mode. Blue Jasmine is Allen in top form.
The screenplay is much darker than his other recent ones. While there are definitely some elements of comedy, this is a serious film. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t a delight to watch, though. When the credits started and the usual jazz music began to play, I was already delighted. For Allen devotees like myself, it is comforting to sit in a theater and see the same kind of credits sequence with the same kind of music start to play after seeing it so many times in his other films. It’s like coming back to a movie home.
Overall, Blue Jasmine is almost on par with classic Woody. It is a beautifully-crafted and acted movie that should please both Allen devotees and the average viewer or non-fan. While it is very much an Allen film, it is different in the sense that the film is dark and the lead character isn’t obsessed with many of Allen’s obsessions like sex and death. Jasmine is the whole show. I loved this movie from start to finish.