So it’s return to form time again for Woody Allen. Except it’s only been two years and two movies since his last return to form, the Oscar winning Midnight in Paris. Before that, it was 2008’s Vicki Christina Barcelona. And before that, Match Point in 2005. What I’m getting at is, is it really a return to form if you have one every couple of years? Or is it just solid, consistent work, with the odd clunker (which even those, I tend to like) that’s inevitable when you’re as prolific as Allen? Whatever it really is, according to the press, it’s another return to form for Woody Allen with Blue Jasmine.
Kate Blanchet is the Jasmine of the title. A widow after her husband Hal, played by Alec Baldwin, killed himself on jail where he was serving time for some 2008ish, Global Financial Crisis type malfeasance. Now she’s totally hit bottom and is forced to move in with her all but estranged sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in her small San Fan Cisco apartment.
Jasmine also has to contend with Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), and current boyfriend, Bobby Cannavale, as the blue collared Chilli. While a lot Blue Jasmine is built on the class struggles and clashes between the haves, like Jasmine and Hal, up against the have nots, Ginger and her circle of friends, it’s not really about a spoiled rich bitch receiving her comeuppance and learning there’s more to life than money. There are hints of that, but those without money are just as guilty of financial prejudices as those with it.
Cutting back and forth between the story of Jasmine’s old life falling apart, and her attempts to build a new one, Blue Jasmine does a great job of planting all sorts of assumptions about its characters in your mind, before totally flipping them on their heads and making you question who the heroes of the movie might actually be. It takes a certain kind of skill as a writer and director to make a character played by Andrew Dice Clay the one you sympathise with the most, but Allen somehow manages it.
All the talk around Blue Jasmine is that Kate Blanchet is currently the front runner for the Best Actress Oscar. Having now finally seen it, after months of praise surrounding her performance, it really did live up to the hype. The way she plays the constant feeling of being overwhelmed, the occasional moments of questionable sanity, the stuck up snob looking down her nose, the few moments of happiness, the sad helplessness, the vindictive acts of sabotage… Blanchet is all over the shop in this, but it’s never jarring or inconsistent. You totally believe it when she goes form one extreme to the other.
As amazing as Blanchet is, credit has to go to everyone else around her as well. Woody Allen’s always had a knack for building great ensembles, and here Clay, Carnnavale, Baldwin and Hawkins all play off her perfectly. As well as Peter Sarsgaard and Louis C.K who also show up for small, but integral roles.
Blue jasmine isn’t a return to form for Woody Allen. It’s just another reminder that he’s a really great writer, director and story teller, who, after almost fifty years and almost as many movies, still somehow has great stories to tell.
Directed By – Woody Allen
Written By – Woody Allen