Synopsis: After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again.
Blue Jasmine 8.0
eyelights: Kate Blanchett’s brilliant performance. Andrew Dice Clay’s surprisingly solid performance. the fashion in which the story is told and revealed.
eyesores: the average quality of the rest of the cast.
“Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.”
Did I ever mention that I’m a HUGE Woody Allen fan? Go ahead, don’t believe me. The proof is in the pudding, though: while I can’t be bothered to go to the cinema nowadays, I’ve seen all the most recent Allen films at the big screen. Woody Allen films don’t even need a big screen. Or big sound. You can watch them on a mobile phone and it rarely makes a difference.
But my gf and I are both fans and Allen’s yearly (!) releases have become something to look forward to.
We were obviously not alone on this one: the local art house cinema was veritably buzzing with murmurs and the hustle and bustle of people making their way to and from their seats. The room was filled: the line-up outside the cinema had stretched out all the way down the sidewalk and kept growing as we waited patiently.
Frankly, I had not been to such a vibrant movie screening in ages. It reminded me of the good ol’ days of going to the movies, when it was an event, something to talk about. This was before multiplexes pretty much sapped the excitement out of a cinema outing by over-stimulating us with its circus or Vegas-like atmosphere.
There was a day when there were tons of single-screen (or, at most, triple-screened) cinemas and one would have to pick the movie we wanted to see and go line-up to get tickets at the closest cinema that played it. And when they played it. Nowadays each movie plays in each multiplex, and they’re available all the time.
This saturation has made movies a commodity, and thus, less exciting; you don’t crave something you can get anytime you want. That’s basic. So the limited runs of the art house cinema has the effect of building up anticipation: we have a small window to see a movie, and there’s only the one place to go see it at. This creates a form of excitement.
All this to say that I relished the atmosphere that permeated the cinema that day. Not only did it bring back fond memories, but it actually reminded me of why it can be more fun to go out to see a movie instead of just watching it at home. Unlike the antiseptic, lemming-like vibe of the multiplex, this was a vibrant gathering of people cross-pollinating.
‘Blue Jasmine’, as one might expect from a combination of Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett (in the lead – not as part of an ensemble piece), was a success. Of course, for every two Woody Allen film, I find one so-so and the other quite good. Since the last one was a mixed bag, I had concluded going in that this one would be fairly solid.
It focuses on the aftermath of a financial crisis Jasmine (née Jeanette)’s life. Once extremely wealthy, she has since lost pretty much everything except for what she has left in her suitcase. On a downward spiral, with a bottle at her side almost at all times, she is trying to pick up the pieces and cope with the uncertainty before her.
Clearly, this is not one of Allen’s riotous comedies.
However, it does have its moments. Even steeped in drama, Allen frequently infuses his pictures with a little bit of acerbic humour to help the medicine go down. And to soften the edges, ‘Jasmine’ features a few well-known stand-up comedians, such as Louis C.K. an Andtrew Dice Clay (in secondary parts, both of them play it straight).
The cast is mostly solid, but it’s Cate Blanchett who shines as Jasmine, a woman so distraught by the implosion of her comfortable existence that she is nearing the edge. The shakiness in her voice, her wild eyes, the body language, all tell the story of someone who is suffering from severe stress with no idea as to how she’ll remedy her situation.
I got so frustrated with Jasmine’s choices, because she was coming from an a place of entitlement and shame: she would not only look down on her sister, who welcomed her into her life, but try to change her; she would not only be embarrassed with the state of her life, she would lie to people for status. These were not things that I would do.
Having said this, although her choices were frequently damaging, in many ways it was understandable: she had no idea how else to cope. She was basically trying to retain even the slightest dignity and pretend that everything was as it used to be – in as much as she was capable of doing this, given what remained of her former life. She is to be pitied, really.
Blanchett is exceptional here – and thankfully so, as the movie hinges completely on her performance. Unlike most of Allen’s recent efforts, there are many well-known actors involved, but he centered the whole story on just the one character. Thankfully, he banked on the right leading lady: there are even rumours of an Academy Award nomination for her.
The story is simple but it’s structured in such a way that not all is clear and not all is revealed until the very end of the picture. I would highly recommend avoiding most reviews or descriptions (the Wiki entry, in particular, is extremely negligent; whoever wrote it should be ashamed of themselves); this is a tale best served fresh.
‘Blue Jasmine’ isn’t Allen’s finest picture, nor is it his most memorable, but it’s certainly a quality entry in his ever-expanding oeuvre. Without the exceptional qualities of its star, however, it wouldn’t have held up as nicely as it does; it’s a decent, but decidedly conventional Allenesque film.
However, Blanchett delivers like few could have, and it makes ‘Blue Jasmine’ well worth seeing.
Date of viewing: August 24, 2013