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Blue Jasmine – Movie Review

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Blue Jasmine – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

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Woody Allen’s most prominent protagonist is the upper-class New Yorker, who is typically wealthy and neurotic. In recent years, he has taken his characters out of New York and into Europe. With Blue Jasmine, Allen takes away the titular protagonist’s wealth and the audience becomes witness to a woman deteriorating before our eyes. Taking cues from A Streetcar Named Desire and even distorting a theme from The Lion King of all films, this is another work from a filmmaker who always gives us a new production every year.

As shown with previous efforts like Annie Hall, Allen has a knack for editing together flashbacks with the main storyline to make it cohesive. Blue Jasmine jumps back and forth between Jasmine’s rich lifestyle in New York and her new, “less glamorous” time in San Francisco and it works in showing the contrasts between her two worlds. In New York, she is oblivious to the obvious dealings of her husband and this past affects her well-being in California. The flashbacks are used to connect the dots and show precisely why Jasmine has fallen so heavily. It is not merely the loss of wealth that ruined her, but many derailments. When a question runs through our minds about how such elements are possible, Allen is a step ahead of the audience and presents clear answers to anything that might cross the viewer’s thoughts.

Cate Blanchett is fantastic in possibly her greatest performance in fifteen years of memorable work. She throws herself in the part of Jasmine, handling both the comical throw-away lines Allen carefully places into his screenplay and the mental breakdowns she suffers. However, despite her actions, Jasmine is not an unlikeable character and Allen actually makes her quite sympathetic at points. Her chemistry with Sally Hawkins, playing her sister, is quite fascinating in how they both contrast themselves in their personalities, but yet are alike in other ways.

While Ginger may criticise Jasmine for her frivolous former lifestyle and obliviousness to her husband’s actions, she is no different with her tendency to become involved with tough men. Allen could have actually written another feature film about Ginger’s relationships with her ex-husband, new boyfriend and affair with comedian Louis C.K, who provides a surprising and welcome turn. While Blanchett commands the screen, Hawkins more than leaves an impression, delivering a great turn in her own right.

Placing his protagonist in a different environment allows Allen to create a new sort of “fish out of water” story, as Jasmine tries to adapt, but her mind pulls her in all sorts of different directions. It is only upon meeting a wealthy Peter Sarsgaard, that Jasmine becomes more comfortable with San Francisco and in a clever bit of framing, Allen starts to make the city look more like her native New York. However, to do so, she ironically tries to forget her disgraced past. One could look at Blue Jasmine as Woody Allen’s interpretation of “Hakuna Matata.”

Jasmine tries to move away from her past, create a new life for herself and have “no worries for the rest of her days”, to quote Elton John’s catchy song. The usually pessimistic Allen, nonetheless, tries to bring Jasmine through an emotional rollercoaster of distress and drunkenness and anybody familiar with his work will have a good idea what will happen to her. He still manages to throw a good amount of curveballs into the screenplay, though, creating quite a ride.

A Woody Allen film is always an annual event worth looking forward to. The amount of secrecy that surrounds his work always allows for a surprise or two. While he might occasionally make a disappointment, he will sometimes have a new and better film around the corner. Blue Jasmine is a strong rebound from last year’s underwhelming To Rome with Love and continues to show his capabilities as a dramatic filmmaker. His smart script still manages to sprinkle in a couple of funny lines, so this does not turn into a depressing experience, but it still becomes the sad story of a woman falling apart before our eyes. It is almost surprising this is the first time Allen has directed Cate Blanchett in one of his films, but I can certainly see their pairing leading to his next lengthy collaboration.

Review By: Stefan Ellison


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