Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, finds the director following a pair of sisters as they navigate life and love in a funny, but ultimately sad, slice of their lives.
Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins star as the sisters, Blanchett in the title role, with Hawkins’ Ginger taking in her crumbling sister Jasmine as she tries to get back on her feet. Allen from here gets our feet settled in the present while slowly peeling back the background we need to know about these two’s lives and relationship and never really stops dotting the film with moments from Jasmine’s tumultuous past.
The story is told mostly through Jasmine’s mind and that allows for the flashbacks to be integrated expertly and seamlessly. Whether it’s a smell, a word or word sometimes a certain bodily feeling, Jasmine’s brain snaps her back into her memory and we get lost with her for that moment as we find out how she has gotten to the way she is. A socialite snob of New York, Jasmine could easily come across as unsympathetic (and often does), but the Allen and Blanchett do an amazing job at humanizing this woman; sometimes even when she is being terrible to someone else. The performance by Blanchett is one of, if not the year’s best so far as she rides the roller coaster of emotions that Jasmine takes her on. She gives us everything and as is the case with many great comedic performances Blanchett is able to find much humor in the sadness. The film’s final act though ditches most of the humor and just gets plain low as Jasmine’s life collapses in on her. I am really intrigued to see how people react to this film’s final moments, I was in awe, but I think a lot of people are going to be caught off guard; especially compared to Allen’s previous efforts.
Speaking of Allen, he does some fantastic work behind the camera here as it certainly seems to be one of his most technically impressive films in a while. While I do wish we got a beautiful travelogue of San Francisco, like the opening of Midnight in Paris, the film still captures the city wonderfully and is an active character in the film as it is in many of his films. The editing, structure and writing for the film is also stupendous as, previously mentioned, the film bounces back and forth through time at just the right moment. The way he connects the jumps are also full of clever little touches, for instance Blanchett’s mascara is ruined and her pits are sweated out connecting the past and present late in the film, and I also have to appreciate his ability to let the story flow through time without bothering to worry the viewer won’t keep up. The parallels running between the two sisters for the back half of the film is also a nice touch as we watch them both find sadness in completely different ways.
The casting for the film is also impeccable with everyone making an impact from top to bottom. Andrew Dice Clay comes out of nowhere to deliver an honest and fantastic blue collar performance as Ginger’s first husband and he goes toe to toe with a ton of top notch actors. Bobby Cannavale is also great as Ginger’s present day man and he gets to carry much of the film’s comedy, especially as the proceedings become more and more sad, and he nails every necessary moment. Alden Ehrenreich is also wonderful in his few brief scenes and successfully serves as the emotional breaking point for Jasmine throughout her life. Sally Hawkins is the co-lead of the picture for the most part and seeing how great she is here makes me just wish she got to be more than just a civil British woman in a period piece every couple years. She is full of life and energy, but carries a different level of sadness from Jasmine that perfectly contrasts with her spiraling sister. More Sally Hawkins! Alec Baldwin was born to play a smooth talking asshole investor and he undoubtedly nails that here while being endlessly charming the whole way through. The always great Michael Stuhlbarg also pops up for a couple scenes as a delightfully creepy dentist whose intentions for hiring Jasmine are pretty clear from the get go. Peter Sarsgaard also pops up late in the film and charms your butt off as a potential suitor for Jasmine. And for all you Bachelor fans out there, yes that is Ali as the fitness trainer Alec Baldwin takes to the ball game; random, I agree, but good for her.
Blue Jasmine is one the year’s best films and I can’t wait to see it again. I was caught off guard by the tone of the film as it went along, but enjoyed where it was taking me every step of the way. Jasmine is a character that could lead us anywhere and Cate Blanchett is astonishing in the role. Sad, funny and full of wonderful performances, Woody Allen’s latest is not one to miss.
Blue Jasmine is an A