Woody Allen’s 45th feature as a writer/director is a cold yet brilliant piece of story telling that lingers in the memory. Blue Jasmine tells the story of Cate Blanchett’s eponymous Jasmine, a former New York socialite who moves to San Francisco with her working-class sister when her money and social standing disappear.
Whilst the film is described as a comedy/drama, the laughs are few and far between. For one to approach this expecting a laugh-a-minute would be sorely disappointed. What you would get however is an in-depth character study to a woman who is suffering the aftermath of losing everything.
The opening comes as Jasmine is stepping off the plane in San Francisco; she is talking the ear off an elderly woman, giving details of her life story. This sets the tone for the film as we quickly learn of Jasmine’s recent mental health issues that have a significant impact over the course of the film.
Upon meeting Jasmine’s sister – Sally Hawkins’ Ginger – more details regarding how Jasmine came to be imposing on her sister become clear. The combination of flashback and present tense story is very effectively used and Allen switches between the two like a true master of storytelling.
Allen uses the characters to build the world and is aided by a cast of magnificent performances. Between this and the fantastically written parts, the characters simply come to life.
The effects of Jasmine’s imposition on Ginger are clearly shown with her ex-husband and her current boyfriend often arguing with Jasmine whilst Ginger pressing the importance of family. However, Jasmine is dour, depressing and often vicious with her snipes at both Ginger and her choice in men.
Whilst the supporting cast of Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Louis C.K and Andrew Dice Clay all shine, this is undoubtedly Blanchett’s film. Her performance as Jasmine is astounding and whilst she is in no way a likeable character, Blanchett allows us into her pain and Allen’s writing shows us the reasons she has become the way she has.
Given the recent output of Allen’s oeuvre, the movement away from comedy seems complete. There was the occasional dark laugh to be had however this is a very serious and intense character study of a woman who’s seen it all disappear.
Blue Jasmine showcases both Allen’s writing of characters and the way the story is told, as well as Blanchett’s tour-de-force of a performance. The film would quickly collapse if it weren’t for her performance. Jasmine is the type of character that is very easily hated however Blanchett brings a degree of sympathy to her and this is the key to the film. With Allen showing no signs of slowing and given the strength of Blue Jasmine, long may he continue.