Woody Allen’s films often feature large ensembles with plum roles for supporting players (actors like Dianne Wiest, Penelope Cruz, Mira Sorvino, and Michael Caine won supporting Oscars for their work in Allen’s films), but in Blue Jasmine, Woody hands a wallop of a role to previous Oscar winner Cate Blanchett. Cate seems like a shoo-in for another Oscar nod for her incredible work here. Julianne Moore should fire her agent for not getting her this role.
The character of Jasmine is a woman we’ve seen before. Heck, she’s basically the same character as Caroline on 2 Broke Girls. A socialite loses everything and has to slum it in a less than glamourous new life. After her rich husband (Alec Baldwin) is arrested for fraud and they lose their fortune, Jasmine has to go live with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Her adopted sister. Jasmine was adopted too. Jasmine tells this information to anyone who will listen. Jasmine and Ginger have very little in common, as Ginger struggles to get by working as a grocery clerk in San Francisco, divorced with 2 kids. She welcomes Jasmine into her home, even though she barely spoke to her sister when Jasmine was living the high life. It’s a point that her ex-husband (Andrew Dice Clay) and her new boyfriend, Chili (the wonderful Bobby Cannavale), like to mention a lot.
We get a lot of laughs out of this woman being a fish out of water in a new situation, as she drinks away her sorrows at all hours of the day. This could easily have been a light comedy with a great caricature at the middle, but obviously, Woody Allen and Cate Blanchett are much better than that. It’s reminiscent of John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under The Influence with Gena Rowlands. Buoyed by Allen’s superb writing, Blanchett goes for something much deeper. Watching this woman switch back and forth from her high-society persona to a woman falling apart at the seams is fascinating. From scene to scene, the way Blanchett talks, moves, and carries herself are completely different. There’s an intensity in Blanchett’s eyes that can’t be ignored. She’s constantly on the brink of losing it completely.
The film is smartly built with a broken timeline so we get flashbacks to Jasmine’s former rich life while experiencing her current mess of one. It leads to a climax where we see Jasmine make a choice that will affect the rest of her life, and helped lead to her mental breakdown. It’s a powerful moment that puts this woman’s journey into a much clearer context.
It’s a tour de force performance from Blanchett that will certainly be in the running for the big prizes this award season, and look out for Allen’s script, Cannavale, and Hawkins as well.