Woody Allen nowadays is as much miss as hit. But, this is a bullseye.
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 knows when to casually drop in dramatic plot points via some of his best dialogue in years, before showing 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.