2016.53: Blue Jasmine (Amazon VOD)
Blue Jasmine is a very good Woody Allen film (okay, maybe not up there with his ‘greats’ but damn good nonetheless and proving his continuing his validity as a film-maker even after so many years/films), that is graced by a powerhouse performance by Cate Blanchett as the title character.
Penniless and post-mental breakdown from her failed marriage to high-flying financial New York businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), Jasmine has flown to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her two young boys, giving up a wealthy socialite existence in New York for a crowded apartment above a shop. Jasmine, who is clearly already fragile emotionally and mentally, has to start a new life in a world she considered far beneath her, seeking menial employment and fending off men with little or no prospects.
It’s a fish out of water/culture-shock film, quite funny in places but also rather affecting, chiefly due to Blanchett’s remarkable performance. Jasmine isn’t necessarily a likeable character- certainly there’s more opportunity to laugh at her predicament than share her pain at the film’s outset, but Blanchett’s genius is that she opens up and displays a vulnerability and warmth as the film progresses. A series of flashbacks, that are quite jarring and awkward at first, start to unravel the true story she would rather keep to herself. By films end (and mild spoiler warning here) we are left caring very much for Jasmine and it’s a sobering, not particularly positive conclusion, the end of her road (or at least where the film leaves her) not a welcome one. It feels a perfect ending, a real ending, just not the kind Hollywood usually delivers.
The cast as a whole are excellent, as usual for a Woody Allen film. Sally Hawkins is fantastic as Ginger, a divorced woman struggling to make ends meet and find some happiness for herself. Its a great performance unfortunately overshadowed by Blanchett’s brilliant, mesmerizing turn- I hadn’t realised that she had won both a BAFTA and OScar for the role, but I don’t find the awards surprising at all (whatever awards mean, anyway) and they are well deserved.
Blue Jasmine is a fine enough film, but it certainly deserves watching if only for that central performance. Actresses don’t get many meaty roles such as this in films these days, and you can tell that Blanchett is playing the part for all she is worth, conscious the role is a rarity. Great stuff and a real pleasure to watch.