To say Woody Allen’s output in recent years has been variable is putting it mildly. But if you thought his best was behind him, think again. Blue Jasmine must surely rank among his finest work, a funny but heartbreaking portrait of a woman unravelling.
Cate Blanchett is the Jasmine of the title and she’s very blue indeed , A New York socialite used to the high life, she’s fled to her adopted sister’s home in San Francisco after her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin) is found to have built his fortune on lies, deceit and swindles. Ruined, betrayed and penniless, Jasmine is looking to build a new life with her less glamorous sister Ginger who works in a shop, is short of money and can’t seem to find the right man.
The sisters are like chalk and cheese but they’re both looking for a relationship that will make them feel secure. Jasmine is having to adjust to mixing in different social circles; gone are the Manhattan dinner parties and weekends in the Hamptons. Instead, it’s beers, boxing and pizza. It’s not an easy adjustment for Jasmine to make as she tries to learn to use a computer and attempts to reinvent herself as an interior designer while working as a dentist’s receptionist.
Ginger’s life is in turmoil too as she’s split from her husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) and is a tempestuous relationship with a new man Chili (Bobby Cannavale). Salvation for Jasmine seems to come in the form of Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a high flying diplomat with political ambitions, but she can’t escape her past or the effect it’s had on her.
Allen’s film is by turns witty, insightful and tender and at its heart is a wonderful, nuanced performance from Cate Blanchett who manages to be funny even as her character is falling apart. It’s got the whiff of Oscar about it. Blanchett heads a fantastic cast of interesting characters who Allen infuses with salty realism and complicated lives.
Woody Allen may not be the potent cinematic force he once was but this is a reminder of just how involving and affecting his work can be at its very best.