I’ve often disparaged films for denying us a character we
can root for, but every rule has its exceptions, and if there’s anyone who can
break the rules and get away with it, it’s Woody Allen. Blue Jasmine is a character study, and although its principal
character is a mess, she’s utterly compelling, especially as played by Cate
Blanchett. You may not be able to cheer her on, but you can’t take your eyes
off of her.
We meet Blanchett at a low point in her life, as she arrives
in San Francisco to stay with her half-sister (Sally Hawkins), unsure of her
future and haunted—almost to the brink of madness—by her recent past as the
pampered wife of a New York wheeler-dealer (Alec Baldwin). She’s moving in with
her working-class sibling as a last resort because she’s flat broke and has
nowhere else to go.
Allen’s circuitous narrative introduces Blanchett to a new
set of people, well-drawn and vividly brought to life by Bobby Cannavale, Louis
C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, and, in an especially eye-opening
performance as Hawkins’ ex, Andrew Dice Clay.
Blanchett’s former life punctuates the film in a series of
telling flashbacks, revealing her taste for expensive things and her overriding
shallowness. She’d be worthy of nothing but scorn if she weren’t so pathetic,
and that’s the fine line that filmmaker Allen and his leading lady walk so
well. Blue Jasmine is a fascinating
case study that primarily tells a good story, but also offers food for thought
about ethics, morals, friendship, family, and our consumerist society. With
Blanchett in the lead, and a superior cast surrounding her, Blue Jasmine offers supremely satisfying