I had already heard numerous rave reviews of Cate Blanchett’s performance before viewing Blue Jasmine, and I must say she met and surpassed my lofty expectations. I will never be the biggest fan of Woody Allen movies, but Blanchett’s performance gives this one a distinct feel. Some people complain that in recent years Allen has simply shifted from city to city, tossing out halfhearted films and letting the settings carry them. I don’t want to get into those considerations, but for Blanchett’s Jasmine the cities — both the ones in which she lives and the ones she remembers visiting — are of vital importance to her identity and mental state. My thoughts regarding the movie as a whole are still a bit jumbled, so let’s sort them out.
Unless you’re boycotting Woody Allen (which I could understand), I give a firm yes. As you’ve probably heard from anyone who has seen the movie, Blanchett is magnificent, and the rest of the cast stands out alongside her. Alec Baldwin is unsurprisingly believable as Jasmine’s lecherous husband, Sally Hawkins definitely earned her Oscar nomination as her sister Ginger, and smaller players help give the movie a fuller, richer feel. Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale (history’s least known winner of multiple Emmys?) play Ginger’s main men, and Louis C.K. slips in and out as her glimpse at a happier life. Personally, I was pulled in by the contrasts between Jasmine and Ginger, as the former expects all things to be lavish while the latter settles. Jasmine drinks martinis; Ginger drinks vodka out of Solo Cups. Jasmine dates future Congressmen; Ginger settles for malleable losers. The film suggests an ideal state to be in lies somewhere between those inhabited by the sisters, pushed to their respective limits and dragged down into frustration from vastly different origins.
Could I watch it with a date?
As always, a more delicate question. I have to lean towards no, though your circumstances may be different. Blanchett is great, but in being so great she makes Jasmine disgusting and unbearable, speaking non-stop and saying things like “I’ve neglected everything — my yoga, my pilates.” The sheltered, pampered housewife makes for an interesting character. Maybe some of these characters realize their narrowness and overcome it. Here, though, Jasmine does not do so, instead spiraling downward, unable to function without her pearls and handbags. Ginger and Jasmine’s circlings of their respective drains makes for a powerful, tense film, but probably not the kind you’re looking for with a date.
Once again, opinions of Allen may be a factor, with some parents understandably turning against him (Mama GWW does not approve), but in general this is probably a good choice for mother-child movie night. The movie is a very adult film (joke), shooting barbs into notions of wealth, class, and human adaptability. I’ve seen many A Streetcar Named Desire comparisons, and they fit well, both in terms of the tense, sweaty plot and the actors’ ability to make their interactions feel raw and true. The movie itself plays out like something made for the stage, and the script feels a bit different than typical Allen work, its words spewed out by prettier people with wealthier problems. The plot is unsettling, and having two leads show us disillusionment with both wealth and poverty leaves a bitter taste on your tongue, but that bitter taste will be washed away by stunning performances, and hopefully by your realization that these people’s issues are far greater than your own.