Woody Allen’s latest finds him back on American soil and in familiar territory with the story of two very different sisters. Told through flashback, Jasmine’s life in New York with rich husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) reveals a woman revelling in the high life: shallow, self-centred and determined to hold on to what she has at just about any cost. Sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is living a very different life in LA with husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), poor but happy. But when Sally and Augie reveal they’ve come into some money, Jasmine wants to help.
In “Blue Jasmine” Woody Allen does what he’s done so well in earlier movies like “Hannah and Her Sisters” and the straight drama of “Interiors”: tell stories of fractured family relationships and the high cost that our choices can reap. Allen’s very human take on family is that it’s not a haven but a minefield of emotions.
Allen has always had a knack for bringing together interesting ensemble casts. “Blue Jasmine” sees smaller roles from Andrew Dice Clay, Louie CK, and Michael Stuhlbarg, but they all make their mark, particularly Dice Clay as the embittered Augie. Bobby Cannavale, as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili, is a stand-out as the unlikely voice of reason and the only truly authentic representation of love in the film. But at the centre is Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Jasmine. Left reeling from her new role as a penniless woman, Jasmine sways between self-pity and self-indulgence to a determination to adapt to and make a success of her new life in LA. Blanchett is wonderful. She brings to Jasmine a frailty that evokes sympathy and a hardness and snobbery that doesn’t.
In Allen’s 1989 film “Crimes and Misdemeanours” he tells two stories – one comedic, one dramatic – eventually intertwining them to leave the characters and the audience pondering whether bad deeds go unpunished and whether love counts for anything. “Blue Jasmine” takes these ideas, reveals some answers, and proves that Woody Allen’s best movies are not yet behind him.
Jody B Movie