The first weekend in August usually marks the beginning of the end of the tent pole blockbuster season as movie going audiences begin to transition into the more award caliber fair. “Blue Jasmine” the latest effort from Woody Allen returns him Stateside after his European phase, using the city by the bay, San Francisco as the setting for his latest dramedy for some fantastic results.
After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again.
Rarely, do Allen’s films manage such a unique blend of hilarity, heartbreak and all sorts of emotional tension from beginning to end, as the very nature of family, relationships, class warfare and everything else in-between. The narrow and character laden streets of the city come alive as if Allen was back in New York following these characters with a deft touch and real sense of awareness of all their flaws. The script bristles with moments of comedic gold at one moment and downright desperation in the very next scene. All the characters rise and fall with their shortcomings, their idiosyncrasies and the burdens that they all have to bear as each single person we see on screen has a genuine purpose in this story centering around the life of our of lead protagonist. Allen has full command over his words as this engrossing narrative unfolds on the screen in front of us, and while it is easily one of his better written films in years, it also jumps off the screen thanks to a simply captivating lead performance from Cate Blanchett.
In what can only be described as a masterful performance, Cate Blanchett takes Jasmine and turns her into a flawed, delusional, selfish force of nature that you simply cannot look away from. She lays herself bare, exposing a wide variety of raw emotions that makes her uniquely sympathetic and wholly unlikeable all at the same time. She’s not a good person, by any stretch of the imagination, and has no idea how to even begin to go about that even though there is a small part in each and every one of us that relates and is rooting for her. There’s a perversity to it all as Allen attacks the class structure and dissects not only a fallen women’s psyche but that of some pretty unique men around her. Alec Baldwin was actually the least compelling this time around, playing Jasmine’s philandering husband and Peter Sarsgaard as a love interest only react to her while she puts them on a pedestal. On the opposite side of that coin, her working class adopted sister Ginger played by Sally Hawkins works wonders as the yang to her yin and the relationships with the men in her life as both sister navigate their own securities with the opposite sex. Bobby Cannavale as her well meaning fiancé Chilli and Andrew Dice Clay as he ex husband Augie were absolute revelations as both men truly got to dig and do some character work while still maintaining a sense of character inside themselves, while Louis CK got to be sad sack and a little sleazy at the same time. There really isn’t a single performance in this film that is phoned in as this film is filled with unique and engaging performances spearheaded by Blanchett herself.
At the end of the day, “Blue Jasmine” falls into that unique territory that is often populated by Woody Allen’s films. It’s dead funny, dead serious and easily one of the more compelling films of the entire year.
5 out of 5 stars.
“Blue Jasmine” is now playing in theatres in Toronto and Vancouver, please check with your local listings for show times.
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