Film review: Blue Jasmine - Magnificent and monstrous Cate Blanchett helps Woody Allen blossom again
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Wednesday 31 July 2013
Late period Woody Allen movies have tended to arrive on the understanding that, though they may offer flashes of the wit, pathos and psychological acuity of his early work, they’ll never match up to Manhattan or Annie Hall. Blue Jasmine is proof that Allen’s powers are merely fluctuating, not in terminal decline: it’s his most assured, affecting work in years.
There’s no shaking the overtones of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire in the opening scenes, as Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) – a broke but snooty New York socialite, still flying first class – arrives at her sister Ginger’s modest apartment in San Francisco, parks her vast collection of Louis Vuitton luggage in the tiny sitting room, and hits the nearest bottle.
Recently recovered from a breakdown, she teeters on the edge of sanity. In flashbacks, we see her enjoying the gilded Park Avenue existence afforded by her husband Hal’s fortune, until it becomes clear that the cash comes from rampant, white-collar criminality. Meanwhile, in her post-downfall present, she half-strives, half-refuses to accept her predicament, relying on Ginger, yet disdaining her lower-class lifestyle.
Blanchett has played Williams’ Blanche Dubois to raves on Broadway, and she’s magnificent as Jasmine: by turns monstrous and pitiable, never aiming for cheap sympathy or an easy laugh, though she earns some laughs all the same. Hers will be the performance to beat come awards season, and she is surrounded by Allen’s customarily excellent supporting cast.
As Ginger, the wonderful Sally Hawkins is the trusting heart of the tale, while Alec Baldwin is a sleek fit for the despicable Hal. Bobby Cannavale is winning as Chili, Ginger’s loudmouth, sub-Stanley Kowalski mechanic boyfriend, who remains morally intact despite Jasmine’s avowed disgust.
It’s telling that Chili and Ginger’s ex, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), are not only the most conspicuously working-class characters in the film, but also the most noble. While the simplicity of his satire of the social divide may be deliberate, neither Allen’s portrayal of the super-rich, nor of the working class, rings entirely true.
The honourable grease-monkey, the Martini-sloshing socialite, the linen-suited diplomat: Allen appears to have been living in a romantic Manhattanite bubble long enough to become almost as divorced from reality as Jasmine – or as the protagonist of his last good movie, Midnight in Paris, whose idea of the world was nothing but an outdated hallucination. Blue Jasmine is unmistakably a film of 2013, but by a great filmmaker from another time.
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
The Walking Dead, Remember, review: The discovery of a new community leads Rick to a dark decision
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'