out of Five
Running time: 98
Blue Jasmine is the film die-hard Woody Allen fans have been waiting for, thanks to a superb, pointed script and terrific performances from a wonderful ensemble cast, including a sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated central turn from Cate Blanchett.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett as Manhattan socialite Jasmine, who is forced to live with her working class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in a run-down San Francisco neighbourhood after the collapse of a Ponzi scheme run by her wealthy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) leaves her bankrupt, disgraced and friendless.
Still very much in denial, Jasmine clashes with Ginger's fiancé Chili (Bobby Cannavale) and reluctantly takes a job with a smitten dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg) before things start to look up when she meets charming diplomat Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). Meanwhile, flashbacks detail Jasmine's privileged life in New York before Hal was arrested, including a visit by Ginger and her then husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) who get suckered into Hal's ‘investment opportunity’.
Cate Blanchett is magnificent as Jasmine, delivering a powerful performance that will almost certainly land her an Oscar nomination; it's a testament to both Allen's script and Blanchett's skill in the role that the audience will find her both enormously irritating (‘She just wouldn't stop blabbering about her life!’ comments a woman who gets trapped next to her on the plane) and ultimately deeply moving – the wonderful final shot is heart-breaking.
Blue Jasmine’s supporting cast are equally good, particularly Hawkins as cheerful, optimistic Ginger, who briefly allows Jasmine to cloud her thinking about Chili and starts seeing another man (Louis CK) instead, while Baldwin is perfectly cast as Bernie Madoff-like Hal and Stuhlbarg is very funny as the besotted dentist in the role Allen probably would have played if he'd cast himself this time round.
There's also superb work from Andrew Dice Clay as Augie and from Bobby Cannavale as, essentially, the Stanley Kowalski to Blanchett's Blanche Dubois – the influence of Tennessee Williams echoes clearly throughout the film.
Allen's script for Blue Jasmine is his best in years. In the past he's been accused of his characters speaking with a snobby pretentiousness and here he cleverly makes that one of Jasmine's biggest flaws; certainly he gets a lot of laughs out of her having to adjust to working class life in San Francisco. The script also makes some pointed and topical comments about the gulf between rich and poor, fantasy and reality – Ginger and Jasmine both lose everything as a result of Hal, yet Ginger stoically picks herself up and gets on with life, while Jasmine is essentially traumatised by it.
Blue Jasmine is an emotionally engaging and frequently funny comedy drama that arguably ranks with Allen's best work, thanks to a superb script and a magnificent central performance from Cate Blanchett. One of the best films of the year and likely to be recognised as such come Oscar time. Unmissable.