Written and Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay
Cate Blanchett is a tremendously talented actress. She’s established herself in almost every film genre imaginable. She’s a chameleon, disappearing into whatever role she’s delved out, but her performance as the title character in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine might be her best to date. It’s devastating, and will stay with you long after the end credits roll.
Blanchett plays Jasmine, a spoiled, entitled socialite displaced after her husband (Alec Baldwin) is convicted of participating in a Ponzi scheme. He’s shuffled off to jail and she loses everything when the government confiscates all of their belongings. With a limited skill set and precious few options, Jasmine is relegated to temporarily living with her grocery clerk sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). She doesn’t even attempt to hide her contempt for her sister’s menial lifestyle and simple-minded boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale).
Jasmine copes with her self-perceived nightmarish plight by plying herself with a steady stream of vodka and Xanax, but it’s clear she’s slowly unraveling. When she’s not riding the high of the perfect combination of brain-altering chemicals, Jasmine can barely cling to the façade of stability. Through a series of flashbacks, we see glimpses of her previous life as a privileged socialite living in the lap of luxury. Jasmine’s former days were filled with hosting lavish parties, shopping and vacationing. Now she’s working as a receptionist at a dental office and hating every moment of it.
When she meets a diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard) Jasmine sees an out, and desperately tries to morph into the perfect woman, but she lacks the mental stability to pull it off. She succeeds during brief moments of clarity, but her lies finally catch up with her, leading to a final mental breakdown. Jasmine can’t seem to reconcile her own complacency with her lot in life. Anytime it is intimated that she might have known what was really going on with her husband, she jumps down the rabbit hole rather than face her formidable demons.
Hawkins is quietly effective as Jasmine’s sweet-natured sister, and Andrew Dice Clay is surprisingly good as Ginger’s ex-husband, who’s not quite the dolt Jasmine takes him for. But it’s Blanchett who carries the movie. Jasmine runs the gamut of emotions throughout the film, alternating between bouts of rage, anger and despair. She gives a raw, nuanced performance that anchors Allen’s character study. The most amazing part of her performance is that you actually feel sympathetic toward her despicable character. She’s so self absorbed that she doesn’t even realize she’s a much more deplorable human being than those she deems beneath her. While she fantasizes that she is the embodiment of class and grace, the fact remains that she is tragic mess.
Jasmine is one of Allen’s best dramas. It touches on social class warfare, as Jasmine can’t comprehend having a fulfilling life without money. The irony is that the only happy characters in the film are the blue-collar work types she despises. Jasmine is simply a broken being and no amount of money can keep her from coming undone. – Shannon