Directed By: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins
Trivia: Louis C.K. originally auditioned for the part played by Andrew Dice Clay. Woody Allen felt that C.K. was too nice to play the role and offered him another part
Woody Allen continues his string of recent hits with 2013’s Blue Jasmine, the story of a woman trying desperately to outrun the demons of her past.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had it all. The wife of a successful investment manager named Hal (Alec Baldwin), she lived in an apartment on Park Avenue, wore expensive jewelry, and hosted swanky parties attended by all the best people. Alas, her life of luxury ended the day her husband was arrested by the FBI, accused of bilking innocent men and women out of their hard-earned money. Shortly after he was taken into custody, Hal committed suicide in jail, and Jasmine, flat-broke and with no idea what to do with the rest of her life, suffered a nervous breakdown.
Hoping for a fresh start, Jasmine hops a plane to San Francisco and moves in with her estranged sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who, along with her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), was one of the many victims of Hal’s fraudulent business practices. A cashier at a neighborhood grocery store, Ginger and her two young sons live in a small apartment, yet despite her meager surroundings she welcomes her troubled sister with open arms. Naturally, Jasmine doesn’t approve of Ginger’s tiny abode, nor does she think too highly of her sister's new boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). On a whim, Jasmine decides she wants to be an interior designer, and lands a job working as a receptionist at a Dentist’s office to pay for her computer classes (she plans to take online decorating courses, but doesn’t know the first thing about computers). At a party one afternoon, Jasmine meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a diplomat with political aspirations, and before long the two fall in love. But try as she might, Jasmine can’t forget her past, which haunts her on a daily basis.
Like his idol, Ingmar Bergman, Woody Allen has shown an affinity for strong female characters over the years, and the woman at the center of Blue Jasmine is no exception. A former socialite who’d grown accustomed to her upper-class New York existence, Jasmine suddenly finds herself living in one of the poorer sections of San Francisco. Though grateful to her sister for taking her in, she can’t help but criticize Ginger’s lifestyle, and is especially harsh when discussing the men in her life (from the moment she meets him, it’s obvious Jasmine doesn’t care for Chili). But thanks to the film’s numerous flashback scenes (which detail her time in New York before things fell apart), we see that Jasmine’s taste in men, though admittedly more refined than Ginger’s, isn’t all that great, either (besides being a crook, Hal was a womanizer who constantly cheated on her). Along with revealing Jasmine’s past, these flashbacks also shed light on her state of mind, which becomes increasingly more erratic as the story progresses (at times, her recollections are far too painful, causing Jasmine to occasionally talk to herself in public). Like the character of Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Jasmine is a tortured soul unable to let go of a past she continues to idolize.
The entire cast of Blue Jasmine is exceptional. Sally Hawkins shines as Ginger, a woman who begins to take stock of her own life once her sister arrives on the scene, and Alec Baldwin is near-perfect as Jasmine’s deceptively charming husband. One of the movie’s biggest surprises (for me, anyway) was the work of bad-boy comedian Andrew Dice Clay, who, despite appearing in only a few scenes, makes a lasting impression as Ginger’s ex-husband. Yet as good as everyone else is, Blue Jasmine belongs to Cate Blanchett, who convincingly portrays a woman unraveling before our very eyes (she’d win both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her turn in this film).
Yet another feather in the cap of Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine ranks alongside Match Point, Vicky Christina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris as one of the director’s best offerings of the new millennium.