Blue Jasmine

WRITTEN BY: Woody Allen
DIRECTED BY: Woody Allen
STARRING: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale
RATING: 3.5 stars

We are nowhere near the Oscar season, but Cate Blanchett has already garnered plenty of buzz for her performance in Blue Jasmine. The great things is that it is well-deserved attention. Writer/director Woody Allen has created a fantastically tragic character for her to portray. Much like Vivien Leigh's Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (a role Blanchett has also performed on stage), this protagonist – or perhaps antagonist, depending on your point of view – is a woman struggling to adapt after her former life of luxury crumbles. Blue Jasmine is not really a comedy or a drama. Like many of Allen's other works, it seems to straddle both genres. While the film is not as amazing as Allen's recent work in films like Midnight In Paris or Vicky Cristina Barcelona, it still stands strong.

Jasmine (Blanchett) is trying to move on with her life after her rich New York husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was jailed over some illegal business deals. But Jasmine has lost everything and does not know what to do with her life. So, she moves to San Francisco to live with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) until she can figure out her next move. Unfortunately, the sisters are complete opposites and snobby Jasmine does not approve of her sister's lifestyle or choice of men, including her current partner Chili (Bobby Cannavale). When Jasmine meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) she thinks she has finally found someone rich and socially acceptable to save her from complete ruin. But Jasmine's mental health remains an issue as she tries to get her life back on track.

Interestingly, not only does Allen not appear in this film himself, but there is no Allen stand-in character either to be his obvious voice. I suppose the closest character to that is Jasmine herself, though she seems more mentally ill than just neurotic as the Allen-type character usually is. Nonetheless, the writing is as good as we have come to expect from the auteur. The film also captures San Francisco beautifully without pointing out typical tourist spots, except perhaps the Golden Gate Bridge. The direction is also interesting because the film uses a series of flashbacks without obviously pointing out that it is a flashback. I also enjoyed the use of music throughout.

As well as Blanchett's stellar performance, which will have you feeling sympathy and disdain for her, there is also a strong supporting cast. Baldwin obviously enjoys working with Allen because this is their third collaboration. Baldwin is getting older and yet he still often lands roles as the loveable rake and it works for him. Hawkins is a strong performer and her character arc is quite interesting to observe. Cannavale is also good in yet another different role for him, while Sarsgaard has a small but memorable role.

The ending is left rather open-ended, but I suppose the next step for all the characters is fairly clear. Blue Jasmine is ultimately an interesting examination of mental illness.