You never know exactly what you’re going to get from Woody Allen. The filmmaker is unprecedented in the fact that he churns out a film every year like clockwork — some hit and some miss — but he also is so broad in the type of stories that he tells. His past credits include everything from slapstick comedy to intense thrillers.
Just when you get comfortable with Allen’s style again after something like “Midnight in Paris,” he springs “Blue Jasmine” onto theatergoers. But when he pulls off a film like “Jasmine,” the leap in the genre can be forgiven. Anchored by a dominating performance from Cate Blanchett, Allen returns to the states to tell a dark tale of the effect the Wall Street crooks had on other people, while adding his neurotic touch of humor in an exquisite balance.
The story begins with Jasmine (Blanchett) flying to San Francisco to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) after she becomes broke when the government takes everything after her husband’s illegal business dealings. Jasmine is suffering a nervous breakdown from everything that unfolded and attempts to reestablish her life, but can’t escape the past or her own neurosis. Allen clearly took an inspiration from “A Streetcar Named Desire” but was able to make it his own in a completely satisfying way.
Blanchett gives a brilliant performance. She constantly carries herself with the allusion of the high-class woman she once was and manages to be both heartbreaking and funny at the same time. She walks the tight rope of a woman on the brink and is able to keep it from going over-the-top. This is a performance to remember, so don’t be surprised if she becomes another one of Woody’s muses to earn an Oscar nomination.
While Blanchett so easily commands your attention, the rest of the ensemble works well with the story. Bobby Cannavale gives perhaps the strongest of the supporting performances as the foil to Blanchett’s Jasmine, but Hawkins, Alec Baldwin and Andrew Dice Clay also give quality turns. Allen never fails to bring out the names for his films, but this is an instance where the casting worked beautifully not only as individuals but together as a whole.
Now, what can you say about Woody? There is perhaps no other filmmaker like him. Who else could make a movie a year for nearly forty years and still be able to churn out good ones? He has plenty that haven’t connected, sure, but he has just as many classics as Scorsese or Spielberg. The appreciation needs to be there for Allen because no one does it like he does.
That being said, the films that first come to mind with Woody Allen are the more comedic/romantic ones. The supremely unique ideas that offer a different way of looking at those big ideas Allen likes to focus on. “Blue Jasmine” won’t earn the same love and admiration from the audiences as “Midnight in Paris” did, but looking at all the moving pieces it may be one of his best works in this century.
The idea of a Woody Allen film being an event may have worn off since we get one every year, but when Woody is able to connect the dots and make a quality picture, it should be something film fans flock to. “Blue Jasmine” is that. So get out there and see a master at work.