b l u e j a s m i n e
27th September 2013
Cate and Sally
24th September 2013
Let’s just get the elephant in the room addressed here and begin by me saying I don’t like Woody Allen movies. I have tried and tried and I just can’t engage with them and their neurotic, self-indulgent ways. I did enjoy Midnight in Paris however and so I approached Blue Jasmine with an open mind. Whilst I didn’t come out of the cinema with a desire to try to watch Allen’s back catalogue again I did love the film but mainly because of the tour de force of a performance that Cate Blanchett delivers as we watch poor Jasmine disintegrate before our eyes and the rest of a really quite superb supporting cast including Alec Baldwin, Louis CK, Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale and, of course, the always phenomenal Sally Hawkins.
The titular Jasmine is a woman made up of many fragments that are coming away before our very eyes. In flashback we see glimpses of her fabulous life in the elitist world afforded only to the super rich in New York – fabulous dinner parties, beautiful houses, exquisite diamonds, designer clothes and a handsome rich husband in the shape of Hal, devilishly played by Alec Baldwin. Even amidst all this glitter though something doesn’t feel right - although very carefully papered over, the cracks are showing and Blanchett peels those layers away beautifully. Forced to live with her working class sister, Ginger (Hawkins) who works in a supermarket and lives in a small apartment with her two sons from a previous marriage that Hal’s indiscretion helped the breakdown of, Jasmine is stuck up, haughty and very firmly looking down her nose at poor Ginger and her bad choices. Crying broke, a hapless Jasmine lands on Ginger’s doorstop, tipping the cabbie a $100 for bringing up her monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage fresh from her first class flight. When Ginger questions how she afforded it, Jasmine replies ‘I don’t know, I just did’. Ginger’s isn’t anywhere near a perfect life but hers is a far more honest one than the world Jasmine is trying to inhabit. There is an toe curling scene where Ginger and her then husband Augy come to visit a reluctant Jasmine in New York, Hal insists on 'generously' picking up the bill for their stay at a local budget hotel, their many rooms clearly not going to be the receptacle for these lowlifes. We watch as Ginger fusses, tries to be something she isn’t whilst Jasmine counts the minutes until they leave and looks firmly down her nose at them the whole time. The scene is beautifully played by Hawkins and says everything about the relationship of these two women.
Even before Hal, Jasmine was a creature of reinvention, her birth name being the rather pedestrian Jeanette. We watch transfixed as, with not a jot of remorse, she smoothly reinvents herself again when a rich knight in shining armour (a great turn by Skaarsgard) comes her way in San Francisco. Jasmine has never really had anything in comparison to Ginger, who Allen is presenting as a woman with very little but with life and fun and a man who loves her, even if that man is mechanic Chilli (the wonderful Cannavale) whom Jasmine dismisses on sight as useless. Jasmine’s bitter, snobbish tentacles reach out to Ginger and start to make her think she should be doing better than Chilli and she lets a new man into her life but this doesn’t quite have the happy ending Ginger was hoping for.
There is a great deal of humour in Blue Jasmine although it is painful; I had to watch a fair bit through my fingers. Blanchett has said in interviews that she finds it fascinating to see people talking to themselves, as Jasmine does a great deal, and to wonder what brought them to that point. It’s not always as far away as we might like to hope. Blanchett’s extremely physical and photo realistic portrayal of Jasmine as she literally falls to pieces before our eyes is heart-breaking, strangely funny at times and ultimately terrifying. There but for the grace of god…..
So. To conclude. I still do not think Woody Allen is a genius, at the end of the day this is still a slightly laboured, self-conscious Woody Allen movie. However I do think he is a genius at choosing his actors. It is Blanchett and Hawkins who make Blue Jasmine something really special and the supporting cast are a class act. If there is any justice in the world (and we all know Hollywood is all about justice) there will be Oscar nods for both Hawkins and Blanchett because my goodness do they deserve it - this is their movie.
Check out the trailer here.