- Cate Blanchett as Jasmine
- Sally Hawkins as Ginger
- Alec Baldwin as Hal
- Bobby Cannavale as Chili
- Andrew Dice Clay as Augie
- Louis C.K. as Al
- Peter Sarsgaard as Dwight
A strong drama/tragedy from the pen and direction of Woody Allen populated with acerbic dialogue and an exceptional cast headed by an award-winning Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine emerges as one of his most scathing and seriously darker films.
Jasmine was not so long ago a wealthy socialite with everything she could ask for. That is until it was revealed that her husband Hal was a fraudster and who was subsequently arrested for his shady dealings. Now penniless and recovering from a nervous breakdown, Jasmine heads to San Francisco to stay with her adopted sister Ginger. Ginger is less well off than Jasmine, but is hard-working and never bemoans it. Yet while she is doing Jasmine a favour by putting her up, she may have wished she hadn’t . You see Jasmine is not an easy or at all pleasant person to be around. The once rich society princess has a sense of entitlement that causes her to sneer at Ginger’s choices in lifestyle and men, like her latest boyfriend grease monkey Chili. In between popping pills, wittering on to herself about the old glories and hitting the booze whenever she can get her hands on it, Jasmine completely starts to unravels emotionally as her bubble bursts. Jasmine alienates those around her and people like Ginger’s ex husband Augie, who was ripped off by Jasmine’s husband are far from happy to see her swanning back into town as if nothing has happened. Through flashbacks, we begin to get a picture of her life before that she clings to with alarmingly delusional flights of fancy that are leading her down the dangerous path to another nervous breakdown.
The dark drama within Blue Jasmine unfolds very well, courtesy of fantastic and withering direction from Woody Allen. I especially liked the way he cut the flashbacks with the present. It isn’t anything complicated or flashy, it is events shown when a certain topic is brought up about Jasmine and we get answers from it. There is a reminiscent quality about the structure of the flashbacks, which is very apt seeing as Jasmine is still completely in the past and refusing to step out of it. While Woody Allen is a master of comedy, he is also pretty adept at crafting drama. If you want a drama from him, look no further than Blue Jasmine. Humour may have a part in the movie, but like the dark tone of it, the humour comprises of scalding one-liners, biting indictments of the rich and watching Jasmine continue to delude herself that her life is still flashy and amazing. I’m liking seeing Woody Allen direct drama as he has a definite flair for this dark type of drama, tinged with bits of black comedy and vicious wit. Sure at times the narrative can flounder a little, but that is a very minor flaw in what is a very successful movie. A bright visual style showcasing San Francisco is laced with a biting irony at the darkness of the story as Jasmine heads towards the razor’s edge of insanity. A soundtrack of blues and jazz underpins the dark, tragic and pathetic nature of Jasmine’s plight, which is in one way done by her own hand.
What really dominates Blue Jasmine is the bravura performance from Cate Blanchett, that garnered her a well deserved Oscar. The character of Jasmine must have been difficult to play because of how much her emotions veer from one to the other, but Blanchett effortlessly turns in a performance that doesn’t hit a false note. The character of Jasmine is not likable; she’s bitchy, snotty and holds contempt for those who she judges to be beneath her station. Yet with Blanchett in the role, she invests it with not so much a sympathy but a reason that Jasmine is a victim of her own selfishness who simply can’t let go of her past riches and is pathetic, strangely tragic and emotionally ruined to say the least. You simply can’t take your eyes off Blanchett in her portrayal of the slowly disintegrating Jasmine and it stands as one of her best performances. Sally Hawkins provides a great foil to Blanchett’s bitchy Jasmine in the form of down to earth Ginger. She gives her part a genuine niceness tempered with a quiet strength that is soon unleashed as she grows weary of her sister’s behaviour and disapproving attitude. Ginger is a character that you can relate to more because she is rational and while not exactly thrilled at her social standing, works hard enough and sacrifices to make ends meet. Alec Baldwin, shown in flashback is the charming shark who lead Jasmine right up the garden path. Baldwin portrays the smooth operator with a smug and scheming personality with relish. Bobby Cannavale, boasting a blue-collar attitude and big heart is very good as Chili, whose temper is ignited by the way Jasmine looks down upon him. Andrew Dice Clay is well cast as Augie, who was duped by one of Hal’s schemes and came off a lot worse, while Louis C.K. is good as another possible love interest for Ginger. Rounding out the proceedings is Peter Sarsgaard as a wannabe politician who indulges Jasmine’s delusions of grandeur.
With a biting, tart wit and deft direction, Woody Allen conjures up one of his strongest films of late, that is jet-black in terms of humour and is more akin to a tragedy. And with Cate Blanchett on absolutely stellar form as the socialite fallen on hard times and slowly adrift in a sea of delusions, what more could you ask for?