Woody Allen’s new drama, ‘Blue Jasmine’ proves this legendary director shows no signs of slowing down. Now in his 70s, he still makes a film a year. ‘Blue Jasmine’ is easily one of his best since 2005’s ‘Match Point.’ His latest gets its inspiration from Tennessee Williams’ ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ The reason it works so well is that Cate Blanchett’s “women-on-the-verge” performance is riveting. In fact, her work is so good that she deserves to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. Allen makes bold statements about the gap between rich and poor and the wealthy’s sense of entitlement.
As the film begins, we meet former New York socialite Jasmine (Blanchett) who is flying to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). She is flat broke. Her wealthy financier husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) operated a Bernie Madoff-type scheme, stole millions of dollars from clients and gets sent to prison. On the plane, Jasmine looks impeccably dressed in Chanel with her Hermes bag at her side. Shortly thereafter, she stands on a San Francisco sidewalk looking lost and terrified. The reality settles in. This self-assured and pampered trophy wife is on her own. She lost everything – her Fifth Avenue luxury apartment, the beach house in the Hamptons, and all the social status that goes along with it. The moment Ginger shows Jasmine her blue-collar apartment, the look on her face says it all. Jasmine is dismayed at the ordinariness of the place. It perfectly depicts how far from grace she has fallen.
Fueled by vodka and Xanax, Jasmine makes disparaging remarks about Ginger’s current boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) who seems like a younger cardboard cutout version of her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). Eventually, she settles into her new environment and realizes she has no marketable skills. She takes a computer class in order to enroll in online courses to become an interior decorator. In order to make ends meet, she is forced to take a job as a receptionist at a dental office. Although she feels that “shuffling papers” is beneath her, she adapts reasonably well to her new job. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge at work is fending off sexual advances from the creepy dentist. At a party, a wealthy diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard) is smitten with Jasmine. Will he be the knight in shining armor to save her? She certainly believes that she deserves it.
As the story progresses, Allen reveals more about Jasmine through her past in New York and her current plight in San Francisco. Blanchett’s Jasmine is brilliantly multilayered. Although deeply humbled, it is through the flashbacks that illustrates her downfall. She has mood swings. At times, she is charming and at other times, she is a snob. That’s the real beauty of Blanchett’s performance. Jasmine is not the most likable person but you still want to give her a hug when things don’t go her way. She’s a broken shell of a woman. Possibly one of her most endearing qualities is never giving up. Allen always assembles an offbeat but capable ensemble cast but this is Blanchett’s film.
Whether you’re a Woody Allen fan or not, ‘Blue Jasmine’ is worth the price of admission for Cate Blanchett’s mesmerizing performance. This film proves that Allen has a lot more to say. Please keep going, sir. ‘Blue Jasmine’ is now playing at The Flicks and a theater near you. Check out the official movie trailer http://youtu.be/FER3C394aI8.