Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Louis C.K, Sally Hawkins
Blanchett plays Jasmine, a once wealthy Manhattan trophy wife whose life as she knows it collapses in an instant when her wealthy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is convicted and jailed for some undisclosed white collar crime. Given that Blue Jasmine is up against The Wolf Of Wall Street in the Best Picture category, I like to think the films could be companion pieces and that Hal works at Stratton Oakmont with Jordon Belfort.
Blanchett chews the scenery as the ridiculous and disfunctional Jasmine right from the opening minute of the film. We first meet her flying to San Francisco to stay with her estranged sister Ginger. Jasmine is engaged in a one-sided conversation with a poor, unsuspecting elderly woman as she blabs in spectacularly self-absorbed fashion, completely oblivious to the woman’s disinterest.
We learn everything we need to know about Jasmine in the first ten minutes of the film. Despite being broke and penniless after her husband’s arrest, she flies first class to San Francisco. When asked why by her sister Ginger, she is unable to answer. It is because she knows no other way to live.
Life has been nothing but parties and social functions at the country club for Jasmine since she married Hal during college but her sister Ginger is the total opposite and has lived a tumultous blue collar lifestyle, changing jobs and boyfriends at the drop of a hat.
As Blue Jasmine progresses, two stories begin to unfold.
Firstly, we learn more of Jasmine’s past and how her idyllic life was actually a fascade. Hal cheated on her with a string of lovers and worse still, all of Jasmine’s supposed friends knew but were completely indifferent. There is also lingering tension between Jasmine and Ginger after Hal squanders the lottery winnings of Ginger’s then-boyfriend Augie in a dodgy investment scheme.
In the present day, Jasmine awkwardly adjusts to her new life. She has to start afresh, get a job, find new friends and maybe even a new lover. Much of the humour in Jasmine’s situation is derived from her hopelessly dreamy and unrealistic intentions to quickly recapture her former lifestyle. She entertains the idea of becoming an interior designer but you sense its not because of any genuine desire but because it sounds like a nice vocation for a wealthy and successful woman.
The best part of the of the present day narrative is the constant power shift between Jasmine and Ginger. When they first meet in the film, Ginger is clearly pleased that Jasmine has been served some humble pie and is now facing a more grounded existence. But Jasmine soon gets into Ginger’s head and has her wondering whether she could do better than her mechanic boyfriend Chilli. As Jasmine and Ginger both find new boyfriends and new prospects, their relationship with one another shift back and forth. Ginger is played by the terrific Sally Hawkins who I became a fan of after her performance in Mike Leigh’s Happy Go Lucky. It is a treat to watch her and Cate Blanchett play off one another.
Blue Jasmine is one of the funniest, darkest comedies about how the global financial crisis and the crimes of fraudulent stockbrokers can change people’s lives. Woody Allen has managed to stay in shockingly fine form in his twilight years with Midnight In Paris, Vicky, Christina, Barcelona and now this. She’s had a lot of amazing roles in her career but this may just about be my favourite Cate Blanchett performance. Jasmine is self-absorbed, neurotic and surprisingly determined when she has to be. This is a fantastic comedy that deserves all the plaudits and awards that come its way.