Woody Allen continues to be one of the most versatile, consistent filmmakers in the business. Following up 2011’s wonderful Midnight in Paris and last year’s sufficiently entertaining To Rome With Love, Blue Jasmine is an eccentric bunch of social commentary and character analysis, his strongest suits. It’s easily one of his best films in the past 20 years, with Blanchett’s performance being one of her best. She plays Jasmine, or Janette as she used to be known, a woman who has always lived through a husband of sufficient means. He’s played by Alec Baldwin, a man who continuously commits fraud and helps him and his wife stay spoiled. When he’s caught, he’s taken to prison and commits suicide; Jasmine has a mental breakdown, begins talking to herself, and moves to San Francisco to live with her sister.
The film starts off at this moment, with her past in New York being told through flashbacks. That’s an uncommon trait for an Allen film, something he hasn’t employed very often, yet here it often feels like a natural flow of character progression and thought. We’re introduced to her sister, played by Sally Hawkins, who’s dating a man (Bobby Cannavale) Jasmine doesn’t approve of, because she thinks that someone shouldn’t marry so low. Jasmine is a snobby piece of work, a brat who doesn’t have many likable traits. In fact, thinking about the character makes me feel rather repulsed, yet Blanchett not only makes her watchable but somehow sympathetic. When we see her talking to herself in public, it’s painful, for we know that she doesn’t choose to do so.
Everyone commits fraud in this film, with no one being who they say they are. It doesn’t happen consistently with every character, but there are moments when each one seems to lie about a certain facet of their life. Characters often accuse each other of being phonies or frauds, due to Jasmine’s husband being such a fraud himself. And her selfishness, and reliance on wealth, is Allen’s obvious commentary on the divide between the rich and the poor in our society. It’s another uncommon trait for an Allen film, yet that’s why it can be seen as one of his finest works. It’s a bit uneven, with not all the character arcs fully coming together, but it’s a well realized feature that contains signature Allen spark.
Grade: ★★★★ (out of 5)