There are few names as iconic in filmmaking as Woody Allen. A prolific craftsman, the man has moulded so many films, it is insanely difficult to choose his best one. Among the greatest of the greats are Annie Hall, Manhattan, Bullets Over Broadway, Crimes and Misdemenours andMidnight in Paris.
Blue Jasmine joins those ranks without a doubt.
In recent years, Woody has had a few misfires – the likes of Scoop, You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger and To Rome With Love. Some felt that Woody could never truly regain the magic he had in the 1970s. However, with his latest slice of his cinematic genius, Allen has shown us a truly profound film experience can still be gained from his master filmmaking.
Central to the film’s success is the absolutely marvelous performance by Cate Blanchett. In a role that could have been phoned in very nicely, Cate goes ahead and acts her socks off, chewing every bit of possible scenery, spewing out hilarious one-liners and glugging down pills and alcohol like it is the last day of her life, which actually seems a reality for her character Jeanette “Jasmine” Francis. Her name suggests a beautiful social flower with a pleasant fragrance, which is a clear parrallel to the grotesque and pitiful creature she becomes. Jasmine is a character that wil find true happiness from simply stating the truth and noticing the people around her actually care for her, but greed and the lovelier side of life has forced her to run from her past – Jasmine changes her story, but sinks even deeper into her rapidly deteriorating life. A happy ending was possible for Jasmine, but of course, Woody chooses to end it with an image of the sad person she has become, which seems all to true for many who constantly leave their stories behind them, but can’t escape their pasts. Moving forward is a common theme in such films, but Jasmine herself remains particularly static in this film, even moving backwards in character and morals. By the end of the film, she has lost a man who adores her, a sister who cares for her, a new start and is left presumably homeless as she babbles to herself in the street. And the look of uncertainty and loss in Blanchett’s eyes in the final moments of the film is acting in its finest form.
Of course, where would we be without the supporting cast? There was a perfect quartet of men in this film that held up Blanchett and the story with such ease, and none of these men seem particularly suited to receive such acclaim, but they do anyway because whether through the exceptional writing, marvelous direction or the fact that they too put all their acting abilities to use and stretched them beyond recognition, they made this movie truly memorable. Alec Baldwin leads them as the slimy, smarmy Hal Francis. However, you often feel slightly sorry for the character for having to deal with Jasmine as a wife, but he too is equally disgusting morally. Only Woody Allen can mention how a character hanged himself and get a laugh in the same sentence. Bobby Cannavale, who is becoming such a great actor, plays the remarkably deep Chili. At first, he appears as a grease monkey loser, but as we go on, we discover that he has true love in his heart. Andrew Dice Clay turns in an impressive performance as Augie, showing a dramatic side by a comedic actor. His performance too is quite dark and saddening, but otherwise a look into the life of a hopeful man who lost it all. Finally, comedy perenial Louis C.K. shows up for a few scenes, and he plays such a sweet character, I failed to believe this was the same curmudgeon we come to love in Louie. His screentime was limited but effective. With this and American Hustle, C.K. is gaining a good body of film work, and if he keeps this pseudo-dramatic turn up, he will go the route of Eddie Murphy, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey by heading to the big screen. But he must still make Louie. Please.
Who can forget the star turn by Sally Hawkins? If Blanchett didn’t act up the hurricane of a performance she did, more people would talk about the sweet and quirky Hawkins, who gives one of the cutest supporting performances in a film this year. Her constant happy demeanour (coupled with her pessimistic words) make her one of the most bitterly sweet characters in the Allenverse. In a fair world, she is nominated for an Academy Award. However, that seems a bit unlikely, so let us just enjoy her Golden Globe nomination…for now.
Films like Blue Jasmine are the reason I started loving films. It is a hilarious comedy, but also a tragic drama, as we see someone fall apart slowly and surely until she is a shadow of who she was before. Blue Jasmine is definitely one of the best films of the year – dark, disturbing, funny, heartbreaking – beautiful.