Review: Blue Jasmine

We like to help educate our crew at 20FF, so when we found out that Vish S had never seen a Woody Allen film, that had to be rectified. So off he popped to Blue Jasmine. Read on to see what he thought about having his Allen cherry popped.

I must confess something rather embarrassing; out of the roughly 50 or so films that Woody Allen is credited as director I’ve seen, er, none of them. I know, I know… no need to gasp and please, stop pointing at me and refrain from calling me heathen- the name-calling hurts my inner film snob.

It’s never too late to get into something, right? Right. So while I may have never seen a thing by Mr Allen, his presence in pop culture has at least made me aware of three nigh ubiquitous elements in his films: Jazz, New York and Neurosis.

His latest film, Blue Jasmine, certainly features the first two a fair amount. The neurosis not so much: it’s a film more about delusion and the dangers of vapidity more than anything.

A former New York socialite, Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett) struggles to build a life for herself in San Francisco after moving in with her younger sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). The story flits between Jasmine’s present struggles in San Francisco and her extravagant former life in New York City as the wife of a wealthy businessman, Hal Francis (Alec Baldwin).

His legally dubious business practices and frequent philandering catch up with him forcing Jasmine to leave behind the exquisite dinners, the opulent parties, the midday shopping sprees and so much more. Over the course of the film she faces difficulties in adjusting to this sudden change and deteriorates mentally.

When we are first introduced to Jasmine it is quickly established that something is amiss. She talks incessantly to an elderly woman sitting next to her on the plane, only for it to be revealed that the woman did not know Jasmine and seeks to remove herself from Jasmine’s company as quickly as possible. After exiting the taxi, standing outside her sister’s apartment, Jasmine seems as comfortable as a goldfish in the desert.

The surroundings are clearly not suited to her and neither are the people her sister, Ginger, chooses to date – a point she implicitly stresses throughout the film.

Both Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins should be applauded for their performances as two sisters who are totally different from each other. Jasmine is the spoilt princess, classy and aloof, and Ginger the wild child, living on the edge but still grounded in reality. The brilliant performances serve to enhance the juxtaposition of the personalities of these two women and the gulf it has created between them is palpable.

Allen’s great direction means that the entire cast pretty much turns in solid performances. Alec Baldwin does well as the smooth Hal Francis; Andrew Dice Clay as Augie, Ginger’s first husband, and Bobby Cannavale as Chili, Ginger’s current boyfriend give a great portrayal of the brash knuckleheads Ginger tends to go for. And despite his limited screen time, Louis C.K. (one of the funniest comedians around) still turns in a decent performance.

In particular, Peter Sarsgaard with deserves a pat on the back for his portrayal of Dwight Westlake, a diplomat, aspiring politician and potential romantic interest.

It certainly helps that the script is great too. Allen deftly mixes humour and drama in the right proportions: the funnier parts never feel as though they undermine more serious moments in the film. Tonal consistency can be difficult to achieve in the comedy-drama genre but Woody Allen pulls it off seemingly with little effort.

You won’t be shockd to hear that I loved Blue Jasmine. If this film is any indication of Woody Allen’s skill as a director then I will definitely begin to make amends for my previous sin of not watching anything related to the man (with the possible exception being Antz).

Check this lovely film out.

★★★★★

Vishal Sidhu

Blue Jasmine is out now.

 

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