Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgard and Michael Stuhlbarg
Running Time: 98 minutes
Release Date: September 27
The breakdown of social norms is the order of the day in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, a tragic and affecting tale of bourgeois suffering that is up there with the director’s best work.
New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is forced to move to San Francisco to start afresh, having lost everything after her banker ex-husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was exposed as a fraud and sent to prison. A Xanax-popping, vodka-swilling wreck, she moves in with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who bags groceries for a living and has two sons.
Hal’s son from a previous relationship has dropped out of Harvard and cut all contact with his stepmother. To make matters worse, Ginger and her ex-husband lost a significant amount of money through one of Hal’s bogus investment schemes. And although the less-prosperous sibling is generally placid and accommodating, she suspects Jasmine of having known more about Hal’s illegal activities than she is letting on. The Manhattanite who once divided her time between a plush Park Avenue apartment and a summer pad in the Hamptons must try to somehow manage her delicate situation while forging a new life in the alien environs of San Francisco.
Blanchett delivers a wondrous performance, brilliantly capturing the fragility and inherent snootiness of a deeply traumatised individual with a romanticised sense of self who is clearly on the brink. Jasmine is a woman without agency – she abandoned her university studies when she met Hal, so her job prospects are slim. She did work in an upscale shoe shop for a time before moving west, but the ignominy of having to serve women she once hosted on the Upper East Side proved too much to bear. Allen’s Jasmine has been held up as a reinvention of Blanche DuBois in Streetcar Named Desire, a character Blanchett has herself previously played on stage. Alec Baldwin’s performance is suitably understated while Hawkins charms in the role of Ginger, and the rangy Bobby Cannavale provides comic relief as the latter’s boyfriend, car mechanic Chili.
Most of the action takes place in San Francisco, but there are flashbacks to Jasmine’s former life in New York. Through these we are afforded glimpses of the life she and Hal once enjoyed, learning more about them as individuals, about the nature of their relationship, and about its slow disintegration as Hal’s errant ways begin to catch up with him. Everything is perfectly blended and it all adds to the sense of intrigue about where Jasmine has come from and where she might be headed.
There has been much talk of this film as Allen’s ‘Financial crisis movie’. But in interviews the director has preferred to discuss it in more general terms, stressing that he cannot see anything to be optimistic about when it comes to contemplating what kind of future our present will yield. The tragic figure that is Jasmine typifies this worldview. Burdened by the past and rootless in the present, she is hamstrung in her efforts to build a viable future by her lack of autonomy. And while Blue Jasmine never gets too heavy or serious, it has a devastating quality to it that resonates long after the credits have rolled.