One more year, one more Woody Allen film.
After the success of classy but light-hearted effort Midnight In Paris and the uneven but mostly enjoyable To Rome With Love, comes Allen's latest Blue Jasmine and, this time around, things are slightly different. For one thing, this isn't one of those "holiday" movies where the setting is the main character and everyone else is kind of a walking and talking accessory. Here, we have a more focused character piece that's really about the main character and what impact her selfish actions are having on the people around her. Cate Blanchett plays the titular Jasmine as we find her post-nervous breakdown having to go and live with her working class half-sister (Sally Hawkins) after her rich but dodgy ex-husband (played by Alec Baldwin) was caught pursuing fraudulent financial endeavours and her marriage crumbled. Jasmine is introduced as eccentric and self-involved, linking everything that happens to others back to her and relating to anyone she meets (even kids) her experiences living the laid-back high life she once did and her unlikely plans for the future. This is a deeply emotional character, the kind of character that Dianne Wiest or Mia Farrow would have probably played to perfection back in the day but this time, Allen's take on that type of character is very different. Jasmine may have her charming moments, when she's in a good mood, but Allen doesn't go out of his way to make her likeable instead letting the darkest, most subtly revealing aspects of her personality develop throughout the movie and letting us make up our own mind about her.
Chances are you'll find her just as nasty as I did, however.
I mean, there's selfish and there's... crazy selfish. I can't remember the last time a Woody Allen film followed such a flawed, potentially dislikable main character. Maybe Match Point? Blanchett does a brilliant job and delivers a spot-on performance definitely worthy of a nomination come the Oscars next year. It helps that Allen's script is the sharpest and smartest he's produced in years and that her character is already so well defined. The supporting cast is also really good with Sally Hawkins doing well with a role she really shouldn't have pulled off, Bobby Cannavale being as reliably good as ever, Alec Baldwin selling the charming/sleazy businessman role effortlessly and the likes of Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Sarsgaard and Michael Stuhlbarg all convincing in their roles. Sadly, Louis C.K., one of the best stand-ups working today is a tad short-changed in a role perhaps not really suited to his talents as he is given very few lines to have fun with and those he does have don't really ring true. Perhaps not all his fault but maybe another actor could have worked a little better as that particular character. All in all, Blue Jasmine is an extremely well acted and well made piece about an interesting yet not necessarily all that adorably eccentric character surrounded by a reality she doesn't want to accept or build on instead finding comfort in feeling nostalgic for a time when she could easily turn a blind eye to the problems around her. It's only when she is unable to look away that she is made to see her life for what it really is: one hell of a mess.
Despite good recent efforts, Blue Jasmine is quite probably Woody Allen's finest film since Anything Else and that's going back a while. With an impressive performance by Cate Blanchett leading the way and a slightly darker and deeper overall tone and message, this is one that's well worth checking out.