When she loses everything after her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), is revealed as a scam artists, Park Avenue high society wife Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is forced to slum it with her blue-collar sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. She struggles to build a new life without her husband's illegally-obtained wealth and without the emotional stability she craves.
Review by Louise Keller:
The bite of a Woody Allen film stems from its roots in reality and Blue Jasmine blossoms from its musings about angst. There is humour in the irony and situations as Allen canvasses social status, financial woes, infidelity and sibling rivalries, but the film's mainstay - taking the blinkered approach to life - reeks of pain. Unlike his last few films, whose narratives comprise intertwined stories and characters, Blue Jasmine is a single narrative - a study of life gone wrong. Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins are beautifully juxtaposed as siblings whose differences scream loudly as their relationship adds even more conflict to the angst-infused world of Blanchett's Jasmine.
When we meet Jasmine, elegant in designer clothes and babbling non-stop to a stranger on a first-class flight from New York to San Francisco, it is hard to imagine she is not a woman in control. Blue Moon is the tune that was playing when she met her husband, she says. By the time she is installed in her sister Ginger's (Hawkins) homey but decidedly unfashionable apartment, the gloss starts to wear off. Slowly, as all the elements in Jasmine's new life become apparent - Ginger's noisy kids and low-class boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale, excellent) of whom she clearly disapproves, things are not looking ideal.
Jasmine's story unfolds slowly as her perfect life with her wealthy property developer husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), is revealed in tantalising flashback snapshots, punctuated by serial infidelities and dubious business ethics. The contrast between the luxurious homes, splashy parties and expensive jewellery with her current life in a menial job could not be greater, and although we feel little sympathy for her as she pops pills, talks to herself and chain-sips Stoli martinis, we do feel her pain.
Blanchett discards all vanity and oozes despair. It's a towering, gritty performance and watching Blanchett unravel onscreen is highly rewarding: her discomfort far deeper than the physical signs of wet armpits and running mascara. Hawkins meanwhile, is utterly authentic as the emotionally generous and forgiving Ginger. The grit of Allen's tale lies in perceptions and attitudes, with Jasmine's upturned nose pointing at Ginger's life and choices. The fact that the girls are both adopted is an additional sting in the tale. By the time Peter Sarsgaard's eligible, wealthy and ambitious Dwight slides into view, it seems to be a match made in heaven and Sarsgaard is suitably smarmy. I love the fact that when they kiss for the first time, both are symbolically wearing dark glasses.
But heaven is not an easy destination and Allen ensures there is pain at every turn. Allen's voice can be heard throughout the film and if this screenplay is indicative of his current mindset, he is feeling blue or in any event, enjoying twisting the knife into the keyhole of human foibles.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Prolific yet hardly ever repetitive, Woody Allen revels in the troubled waters of male-female relationships, human foibles, weaknesses and flaws. As most natural born comics, he sees the worst of the world but smiles at it. (As he famously once said, life's a bitch - and it's over all too soon.) The tragic figure of Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is one of his more vulnerable and complex creations, who is not only self centred and superficial, but borderline unhinged, clinging to a semblance of normality by the few expensive clothes she has left.
It is noteworthy that Allen has cast an Australian actress Blanchett in this role, with an English actress Sally Hawkins as Ginger, her sister - both are adopted from different biological parents, so don't go worrying about physical appearances. Nor genetic links, which makes for a slight running gag in the film. Cate could be auditioning for Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire in this role, if you want a quick handle on it. Their 'otherness' - in the context of this story - cannot be entirely smothered under their American accents, and this works in their characters' favour.
Both lead women are engaging, although I think Hawkins has the edge in delivering a wonderfully natural, flawed but real and edgy, complex character.
Alec Baldwin, a standout in Allen's To Rome With Love, has all the moves down as Hal, the slippery conman who cheats in every way and ruins lives, hardly noticing - until it's too late.
Allen has chosen to tell this story in slices, cutting back and forth in time, to show how awful Hal is and how careless, shallow Jasmine is, contrasting them with Ginger and her first husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) a labourer, as well as her new fiancé, Chili, the fabulous Bobby Cannavale who steals the show - even from Hawkins.
This chopping approach only works to a degree; for one thing, it robs many scenes of their full emotional payoff, as we move on to a new and unrelated scene, losing the tighter connections with the characters.
Worryingly, Allen is also short of his usual subtlety and nuance, both in the writing and the direction, sometimes succumbing to a cheap shot, sometimes playing it for un-real, sometimes smacking us in the head to make a point. This undermines the film's authenticity somewhat, robbing the ending of its full, pathetic impact.
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BLUE JASMINE (M)
CAST: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Louis C.K, Andrew Dice Clay
PRODUCER: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson
DIRECTOR: Woody Allen
SCRIPT: Woody Allen
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Javier Aguirresarobe
EDITOR: Alisa Lepselter
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Santo Loquasto
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 12, 2013