Woody Allen’s career over the past two decades has been a mixed bag at best. For every Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight In Paris (both of which earned Academy Award recognition), there’s been an Anything Else or a Scoop. It would seem though, that with Blue Jasmine, Allen has crafted a sharp, perceptive and deeply honest drama with a realistic sprinkling of humour that represents the ageing filmmaker at his most inspired.
Left dead broke after her husband (Alec Baldwin) is indicted for fraud, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) travels across-country to stay with her adopted younger sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Used to her lavish New York lifestyle, Jasmine struggles both physically and mentally to adjust to her more humble surroundings, to the point where she has to find employment as a dental assistant. Her luck hints at a change, however, when she meets rich widower Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard).
Like his previous work, Blue Jasmine maintains a swift pace throughout, never outstaying its welcome and keeping firmly to the point. And, while the narrative isn’t very complicated, the fact Allen places more emphasis on the cleverly drawn nonlinear narrative structure (the past is revealed intermittently through memories and revelations) to deliver in terms of drama and comedy, ensures Blue Jasmine achieves far more – and delves much deeper – than its premise implies.
It’s Allen’s dedication to realism that proves most impressive. The difficulties Jasmine faces upon her arrival in San Francisco (finding a job, reconnecting with Ginger), coupled with the pain her ravaged past continues to cause her, yield many brutal, yet entirely authentic and resonant home truths. What she does and how she reacts to – and ultimately behaves in – her new environment seems to accurately reflect who she truly is as a person, and it’s incredible to watch.
Much of that wouldn’t be the case, however, were it not for Blanchett’s flawless performance. Her understanding of the role not only helps in maintaining a particular level of realism throughout, but also in luring the audience further and further in to her troubled psyche. The comedic touches transpire naturally (mostly, it must be said, from Hawkins’ equally impressive performance as Ginger), and punctuate the overriding tension nicely to create a wholly balanced and unique character study.