After almost a decade of hopping around Europe, with varying degrees of success, Woody Allen returns to the USA for his billionth film, Blue Jasmine.
Blue Jasmine is about two sisters – not actually related but adopted and raised by the same parents – who live very different lives. Ginger (Sally Hawkins) lives in blue-collar San Francisco, works hard and raises two children; Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) lives in New York, marries a wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin) and enjoys the luxurious spoils of her life as a socialite. So it’s Woody Allen does Blood Brothers. But when Hal is arrested for financial discrepancies, Jasmine loses everything, from her money to her mental stability. With nowhere left to turn, she moves in with Ginger in San Francisco.
Blanchett is a joy to watch, moving from laugh-out-loud funny to profoundly sad in one bittersweet heartbeat. Her Jasmine is completely obnoxious but completely sympathetic, carrying the character’s extraordinary emotional complexity in her voice and on her face. A psychological wreck, Jasmine pops pills like they’re Smarties and downs martinis like James Bond. It’s a performance which is tragic, nuanced and funny. Give Cate Blanchett’s face an Oscar.
The rest of the cast too are a treat; Alec Baldwin is almost his character from 30 Rock, Louis C.K. is almost his character from Parks and Recreation, and Sally Hawkins is just brilliant. These are all people who clearly love Woody Allen, and he provides for them a screenplay which walks the line between comedy and drama; it’s rich, compassionate and littered with laughs.
Jasmine’s story unfolds nicely – through flashbacks we see her husband’s crimes and misdemeanors, each revelation fuelling the drama and emphasising Blanchett’s talent as an actor. As with this summer’s The Way Way Back, it’s at once genuinely heartwarming and refreshingly downbeat, leaving you feeling sad but smiling.