Cast: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K
Running time: 98mins
The lowdown: Cate Blanchett will surely be clutching a golden statue come March 2014’s Oscars for her astonishing performance in this sensational Woody Allen drama. As Jasmine, a pampered Manhattan socialite brought to Earth with a stony broke bump, she commands the attention with a turn of incredible complexity. Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and even Andrew Dice Clay also impress in this ambitious examination of the haves and have-nots, corporate greed and the lies we tell ourselves.
The full verdict: Woody Allen nowadays is as much miss as hit. But, when he scores a bullseye, the result is guaranteed to hit Top 10 Films of the Year lists.
A searing drama delivered with a compassionate, humane touch, Blue Jasmine is exhilarating, funny and heartbreaking, instantly taking its place alongside the best of Allen’s work.
Blanchett is Jasmine, a one-time one-percenter now on hard times after her CEO husband Hal (Baldwin) is arrested for corporate fraud.
With Uncle Sam taking everything and the kitchen sink fittings, Jasmine is forced to relocate west, from a palatial Central Park penthouse to the poky San Francisco apartment of her working class adopted sister Ginger (Hawkins).
With little to no work (or real life) experience to draw upon, Jasmine frequently slides into happier memories but the harsh here-and-now keeps knocking at the door.
She is a fierce creation, aloof, neurotic, insecure and delusional, with Blanchett unafraid to twist her soft features into shocking masks of self-loathing and bitterness as Jasmine recalls her previous life. Ellen Burstyn’s unforgettable turn in Requiem for a Dream may be the closest comparison.
Flashing back and forth with supreme confidence, Allen’s script expertly knows when to casually drop in dramatic plot points via some of his best dialogue in years, and proceed to show the event or its aftermath. As a director he also knows when to show and when to let the acting do the telling.
The Manhattan society functions, exclusive boutiques and restaurants are all presented in sumptuous 2:35:1 widescreen, only the third time the director’s shot in the ratio, after Manhattan and Anything Else.
More impressive however is the depiction of blue collar reality, Cannavale and Clay both excellent as Ginger’s current boyfriend and ex-husband, damaged in some way by the destructive, condescending Jasmine.
Clay, yes Andrew Dice Clay, America’s Jim Davidson, may even get a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod for his work.
Louis C.K and Peter Sarsgaard are also on hand to play potential suitors for Ginger and Jasmine, while Hawkins (often a fidgety actress) and Baldwin excel in their roles.
Funny without being a comedy, heartbreaking without being a tragedy, and shattering without being heavy handed, Blue Jasmine is as insightful and profound as the best of Allen’s beloved Ingmar Bergman.