Some history. I started this website just over two years ago. Shortly after we were flooded with photos and info about this film Allen was making in San Francisco. I followed the Blue Jasmine‘s every move, every tip, every rumour and more. That this film still managed to surprise and delight me is a testament to the greatness of this film.
Cate Blanchett stars as the titular Jasmine. A well-to-do kept woman who finds herself broke. Her financial criminal husband (Alec Baldwin) is no longer in the picture so she moves in with her working class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) to try and find a new life.
What can we say about Blanchett that has not been said? The scene where she tells the story of working in a shoe shop, where she goes from spoilt, exasperated then utterly insane is a tour de force. The leads in Allen’s dramas are usually reserved, thoughtful and observant. Here, Blanchett is electrifying.
There’s no weak link in the cast. Hawkins is wonderful at the heart of the film – the only real person with anything to lose. Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale are both brilliant as fish out of water. Clay is no bullshit and it works. In contrast Cannavale is almost all bullshit – immature and petulant, his manic energy tears through the screen.
There are one dimensional characters – Baldwin, Louis CK and Michael Stuhlbarg. But the story of Baldwin and CK go beyond their performances. The twist in both their stories only serve to twist the knife in the women in their lives. An extra word about Alden Ehrenreich. He should have been credited in the main cast. He is onscreen for many scenes and does a great job.
I’ve heard a lot about the influences – mainly Bernie Madoff and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire‘. I found the film captivating enough to never think about it. It’s not the story of how financial scheming ruined lives – it’s more how one man hurts one woman, and far more universal. As for ‘Streetcar‘, the story of lust and passion is nonexistent. There is no overly dramatic fantasy here.
There are weak points. Allen’s portrayal of the rich is laughably cartoonish. Jasmine’s adjustment to normal life is ridiculously difficult, and the men she meets are too awful to be real. The ending – I had troubles. Where the film ends is perhaps its most dramatic and effective – but felt unresolved and frustrating.
Those are the details, but the overall experience is just a great one. We follow Jasmine as she poisons her life for a second time. We won’t spoil it here, but the catalyst for her downfall was not what I expected. And for a second there I wanted Jasmine to be happy.
On top of the incredible casting and the fine script is Allen’s direction. Scenes we saw photos of have been cut (as usual) and the film is pretty streamlined and moves along. San Francisco looks pretty great and the music is typically appropriate.
I’ve thought about this film every day for over a year and still left the theatre gob smacked. In the end, I walked away thinking it was Blanchett’s film more than Allen’s. I wanted another 2 hours with her, despite her awfulness. This is one of Allen’s best dramas – one made over four decades into a film making career.
Full Cast: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis CK, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tammy Blanchard, Max Casella, Alden Ehrenreich