When a Manhattan socialite’s marriage to a business fraud hits the rocks, she is forced to leave her lavish lifestyle behind, and move to San Francisco to live with her blue-collar half sister. There, she must attempt to start a fresh life, devoid of all the cultural and monetary luxuries she has grown accustomed to, and face the life she has disdained for years, the one she turned her back on years before.
As Jasmine (Blanchett) tries to come to terms with her new surroundings, flashbacks lend an insight into her previous social standing, and are interspersed among mundane scenes, not only highlighting her fall from grace, but serve to set a tempo that runs throughout the film. No time is given to allow scenes to linger, as key plot developments are often followed by the lower-middle class happenings of everyday life.
Set against the backdrop of financial stress, Allen takes a surprising approach by dealing with the problems faced by the rich hierarchy of New York’s social scene. Managing to perform the almost impossible, he makes it nearly unthinkable to feel anything but sympathy for the titular character, despite all of her flaws.
Stunning performances from secondary characters drag the audience’s attention away from Blanchett long enough to keep her character interesting. Baldwin’s portrayal of a money-hungry, lady romancing, ex-husband is reminiscent of Robert De Niro’s Oscar winning performance as a young Vito Corleone. The romances Ginger, Jasmine’s gracious sister, enters into allow Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire) and Louis C.K.(Louie) to provide straight forward comic relief, compared to the darker humour the rest of the scenes are littered with.
The pressure that these characters take off of Blanchett, allows her to deliver two things. A perfect portrayal of an Upper East Side snob, and the frighteningly realistic descent into a prescription-drugged, martini-fuelled, grandeur deluded sociopath.
To say that Woody Allen has been hit and miss in the past twenty years is an understatement. The acclaimed writer/director has produced a string of underwhelming showings that have lived off of his once great reputation, and delivered moderate box office success. However, scattered amongst these disappointments, there has always been a surprising return to form, that falls just short of what he is capable of.
This cycle seems to have been broken. While Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona have shown glimpses of Allen’s earlier work, 2011’s Academy Award winning Midnight in Paris doesn’t look out of place in a list with Annie Hall, or Manhattan. Blue Jasmine, thanks to its excellent cast, quick pace, and snappy dialogue, definitely falls closer to the latter.