Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published September 23rd 2013
A career resurgence for Woody Allen
Director: Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanours, Midnight in Paris) Cast: Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin
In recent years the most admirable thing about Woody Allen has been how relentlessly prolific he has been. At 77 he's still churning them out. In fact, he's released at least one film each year since 1982 - an incredible statistic. The quality may have declined a bit in those 31 years, but thankfully, Blue Jasmine is the best in a long time.
Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, cuddling up to an appropriately upwardly mobile Peter Sarsgaard
After feeling a vague sense of misogyny in his recent films, with the female characters either being grating shrews or blatant fantasies, with Blue Jasmine, Allen has written his best female lead character since the 80's. As played by Cate Blanchett, Jasmine is at once amusing, pathetic, despicable and fascinating.
When we first meet Jasmine, she's just finished bending the ear of a fellow plane passenger on her way from New York to San Francisco. There she plans to start a new life after her crook of a husband, played with typical oiliness by Alec Baldwin, has been imprisoned for embezzlement.
Having been accustomed to a privileged life of high society, Jasmine finds it quite a come down to start over in the much more humble surroundings of her sister's house, a sentiment she voices as often as possible.
Jasmine's presence causes friction between her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale)
Despite expecting things to fall in her lap, Jasmine is enough of an opportunist to recognise a chance to regain her prestige, no matter what the cost to others. It's a credit to Blanchett that she makes what could have been a distancing character so compelling. We actually want things to work out for Jasmine despite all her unpleasant qualities.
The best Allen films always swing seamlessly from comedy to drama, and this is certainly true of Blue Jasmine. Blanchett gets plenty of glib one-liners and her haughty character is put through plenty of deliciously undignified situations. Her exchanges with her sister's working class boyfriend, played by Bobby Cannavale, are particularly funny.
Some of the narrative feels contrived, but there's certainly more dramatic heft here than in Allen's recent, fluffier films.
It's also nice to see Allen continue his current travelog trend. Having spent almost his entire career filming in New York, the last decade has seen him set his stories in Barcelona, Paris and Rome. San Francisco proves to be an attractive, sun-splashed backdrop.
Blue Jasmine is worth seeing for the performances alone, and for a script which is as clever and nuanced as anything the Woodster has done for a long while.