Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay
Rating: 3 and a half out of 5 Stoli martinis with lemon twist. It thrives from Blanchett’s Oscar-worthy performance and the non-linear structure, making this film a sometimes tedious and tiresome but still deeply affecting and more or less brilliant thematic study of money, materialism, and mental illness in this current cultural moment.
Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s highly effective drama of a high-strung, constantly-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown woman who had been married to a rich (by means of scamming) man. Jasmine, the title character played to pill-popping, nuanced precision by Blanchett, is left at the start of the film to move in with her very middle class sister in San Francisco and start anew after her cushy turned crazy life with Alec Baldwin’s crook character falls apart, which is precisely what we watch Jasmine continue to do throughout the film. It plays out like a cyclical arc, atypical for Hollywood in similar stories of attempted redemption: Jasmine finds herself repeating mistakes and setting herself up for disaster, ending up in similar places as she had in a flashback or even in a present scene that came just a few minutes before.
Not being a huge Woody Allen fan, I found this to be a little frustrating to endure by the third act, wondering if these characters would ever learn from their mistakes and from one another and overcome their destructive selves, but by the bleak conclusion, I knew there was a sense of realism here that was welcome and refreshing, like an anti-fairy tale told in back and forth motion. I also loved Sally Hawkins’ performance as Blanchett’s polar opposite– the content though similarly self-limiting working class ray of tattered sunshine, Ginger. Meanwhile, Jasmine’s aura of sweat, Xanax, alcohol and anxiety in her fall from on high all felt totally palpable and transferable to us through her performance. Their interactions as sisters with different sensibilities were particularly rewarding to watch, and were among the many strengths of storytelling here that made the monotony of Jasmine’s loop-like trajectory worth it and coherent as a film at all. Overall then, I really liked this film, especially for the acting and the structure and the themes, even if all of the above grew to be a little too familiar to us after a certain point.