I need to get this off my chest at the onset.There is quite a bit of Mike Leigh in this film, and I mean it in a good way. It has to more to it than just the presence of Sally Hawkins, who shot to fame in his sunny comedy Happy-Go-Lucky.Here she more or less reprises her role in a slightly older version as a divorcee with two exceptionally fat boys . This film is a strange hybrid of Mr Leigh’s social commentary using broken relationships and Mr Allen’s examining of the emptiness in the lives of rich protagonists . And it feels both carefully constructed like a Woody Allen film, and improvised which is Mr Leigh’s method.Since this is a Woody Allen film all this is of course to his credit.
Making the same film over and over again is the hallmark of some of the greatest directors of all time, from Ozu to Bunuel to Costa-Gavras. Woody Allen is also roughly in the same mould.His rich sophisticated Europhile Americans with preppy wardrobes and posh accents have just enough existential angst to make us happy. A cast of top actors going about a comedy of manners in exotic settings add to the charm.Blue Jasmine brings the action back to America after his European trilogy, which included the triumphant Midnight in Paris.
Despite the fact that right now Europe is in great financial distress, Woody prefers to go back to the global financial crisis of 2008 and give us a heroine Jasmine( Cate Blanchett), whose financial wizard of a husband (Alec Baldwin) turned out to be the lynchpin of a massive real estate Ponzi scheme. He also ruthlessly ruined her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her husband who put their last penny into it. Jasmine, played with rivulets of running eyeliner and mascara by the spectacularly statuesque Cate Blanchett gives us equal reason to feel sorry for her and derive sadistic pleasure in her plight as she lands up at the doorstep of Ginger with her Louis Vuitton luggage, hapless and totally penniless.
Ginger is kind and accommodating and wiling to forget the past when she was the object of embarrassment for Jasmine when she visited her once in New York.Jasmine tries to piece her life back together but she is too far gone on antidepressant cocktails and is a nervous wreck but still manages to behave like an ultra rich socialite when required.The film skillfully cuts back and forth between her tragicomic present as a poor receptionist in a besotted dentists clinic and her equally tragicomic past as a rich trophy wife constantly in denial of her husbands sexual adventures.
Ginger and Jasmine are not blood sisters and were both adopted.They present us with wonderful contrast, in their education, bone structure, genes, luck and common sense.Observe them as they go on a blind date in sub-urban San Francisco. Jasmine sips a twisted lemon martini while everyone has beer.Jasmines date is a construction worker who is awed by her sophistication and wants to take things further but is too shy to ask.The film is filled with sharp comedy, and ultimately it is Sally Hawkins whose physicality carries the day.Blanchett revels in the duality of her character and proves she is one of the finest actresses around.
The film is impeccably crafted as usual and has the peachy golden glow that Woody Allen seems to prefer lately. While on the surface it’s a cautionary tale about greed it is also an astute piece of commentary on present day America with its insurmountable class divide and the death of the great American dream.Blue Jasmine is another potent shot from the ever brimming fountain of Woody’s trademark brew that makes life less of a drag.Salute!