CATE BLANCHETT SALLY HAWKINS ALEC BALDWIN BOBBY CANNAVALE PETER SARSGAARD
Not since 2007’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age has Oscar winner Cate Blanchett been the lead in a film. It was only a matter of time until she worked with Woody Allen (Blanchett has often been quoted that she chooses her projects by director), since she has worked with nearly every respectable living director out there. Blanchett, who ironically hasn’t been nominated for an Academy Award since 2007, reminds us in Blue Jasmine about the art of challenging one's self as she runs the gamut of emotions, particularly with peculiar faces and all sorts of uncomfortable situations. While Blanchett is certainly the entire film, Allen’s writing here is really fantastic, drawing attention to a particular contrast in the American class system.
Trying to start her life over again after the downfall of what was a perfect marriage, Jasmine (Blanchett), out of destitution, flocks to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Hawkins). While a rich house wife on Park Avenue, Jasmine never had any time for her raggedy sister, but now has nowhere to turn. Scoffing at Ginger’s grease monkey boyfriend (Cannavale), her “quaint”, tiny apartment, Jasmine complains about having no money or home and how horrible the first class service was on the way over. Jasmine can’t stop thinking about the only life she has ever known and how she is going to achieve that type of status once again.
Dark comedy is Allen’s specialty and Blue Jasmine is actually a quite telling commentary on two women completely opposite of each other. Throughout the film we see the Jasmine influence rubbing off on Ginger, who was pleasantly content before her narcissistic sister showed up. Allen has written Jasmine as someone we can laugh at, pity, sympathize and even feel contempt for. It’s a really colorful and dynamic character that Blanchett completely commits to. Her role in Bandits (2001) might have provided a little bit of preparation, but she takes this in an entirely different direction.
Hawks (Happy Go Lucky) couldn’t have been more perfectly cast, and the contrast between her and Blanchett on screen is pitch perfect. The rest of the cast is really good, but they only exist for Blanchett and Hawkes to play off of. The year may be only half over, but Blanchett’s performance here will be hard to beat this upcoming awards season. Allen is responsible for writing and directing Penelope Cruz, Mira Sorvino and Diane Keaton to Oscars.
Final Thought – Blanchett delivers an Oscar caliber performance.
By: Dustin Chase
Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Blue Jasmine is another favorite of mine of this year (with Mud and The East), partly by virtue of Cate Blanchett’s performance, and partly because Woody Allen as the writer/director so artfully captured salient characteristics of two cultural groups; he has always been insightful about individuals.
There is a certain kind of character that is always intriguing to those around him/her, despite signs of self-centeredness and potential destructiveness. The veneer on the outside is attractive, and possesses charisma, charm, and even sophistication. And this works so long as the person is secure and in comfortable circumstances. But if threatened, this person is likely to lash out quickly with the most vindictive means available. Both Cate Blanchett (Jasmine) and Alec Baldwin (Hal)—especially Cate, since she is onscreen most of the time—epitomize this character to a tee. Baldwin plays a high rolling money manager in New York, and although Cate as his wife has come from modest circumstances, she is smart and good looking, with no evidence that she was not born to wealth and breeding. Her taste is impeccable, and she is always sweet and in good form as a society wife. Alex is magnanimous with her and seemingly with everyone he meets. Sure, he is seen cutting some corners, but he is getting a reputation as a very generous donor to charitable causes.
In another part of the world, Cate’s sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay)—and after the divorce, her boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale)—represent an entirely different culture, people who are employed in manual labor and must struggle to make ends meet. There is not only a difference in material possessions—but also in degree of openness. People in Ginger’s circle are somewhat naïve, and assume that most of those whom they meet will think as they do and be their friends.
Allen is gifted at making human observations and contrasts, and he exemplifies this talent when there is the first awkward visit of Ginger and Augie to New York, and then another kind of awkwardness when Jasmine visits her sister Ginger in California. Cultures clash, and it is clear that neither is equipped to understand—or have much patience—with the other.
Cate comes to visit Ginger in a very troubled state, and most of the film is about the two sisters’ trying to relate to each other in some semblance of normalcy. Will they succeed, especially when two other individuals (Louis C.K. as Al and Peter Sarsgaard as Dwight) enter the picture? Do go see this film!