The Unravelling Socialite

blue_jasmine_ver2

Blue Jasmine

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Max Casella

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) gives a tour-de-force performance as the lead character in Woody Allen’s brilliant new American drama Blue Jasmine. Audiences get introduced to Jasmine French a blue-eyed blond hair designer clad Park Avenue socialite as she flies first class to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger. Jasmine is all Xanax-popping, Vodka drinking glamour but underneath all the loquaciousness is a woman who has clearly unravelled from a series of financial and social setbacks. Director Allen gradually peals back the layers of Jasmine through a series of flashbacks to her former life in Manhattan and New York where she shared a sumptuous marriage with her shady hedge fund manager cheating husband Hal played by Alec Baldwin and an event which has caused Jasmine to lose everything from her social status to her mind as she clearly flees the East Coast to seek refuge with her non-biological sister Ginger wonderfully played by British actress Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Great Expectations) in Northern California.

The contrast between Jasmine and Ginger soon becomes apparent in their diverse taste of men amongst other things. Where Jasmine is clearly drawn to the smooth talking affluent alpha males who will shower her with gifts so as long as she does not need to care about anything embodied by the slimy Hal  (Alec Baldwin), Ginger on a far reduced significant living standard is clearly drawn to the more working class, emotional men from her ex husband Augie played by Andrew Dice Clay and to her new more passionate boyfriend a car mechanic named Chili in a superb performance by Bobby Cannavale (from Boardwalk Empire fame).

Jasmine that has lost everything financially while still retaining her designer wardrobe and always attempts to look glamorous as she clearly delusional realizes that her life has irrevocably changed forever. Soon she is forced to take a job as a receptionist in a dentist surgery in San Francisco with an amorous dentist played by Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) while attempting to improve her computer literacy skills. Her down to earth impoverished sister Ginger carries an affair with Chili as she works in a suburban grocery store.

Director Woody Allen shows a very incisive portrayal of two women, one constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown while the other is happy to pursue an elusive yet sustainable dream of survival and happiness. Blue Jasmine clearly belongs to Cate Blanchett as she is almost in every scene of the film and this is a new collaboration between Allen and Blanchett which has proved to be quite masterful, a legendary film director who has rediscovered a more sophisticated and brilliant muse who tackles the flawed but vulnerable Jasmine.

vicky_cristina_barcelonaAfter the recent success of Woody Allen’s European films, mainly Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris and Matchpoint, the famous and hugely talented director turns back to his first love Manhattan, but viewed through an angle of San Francisco, an oblique and poignant point of view that is almost showing signs of a farewell. What makes Blue Jasmine so masterful is Blanchett’s wonderfully poignant portrayal of the unravelling of a socialite, a performance that is Oscar worthy to say the least, not to mention absolutely riveting. Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen at his best directing one of the most talented actresses of the 21st century, Cate Blanchett, who I was fortunate to see years ago in a London West End production of David Hare’s play Plenty.

A highly recommended film, Blue Jasmine is sure to garner both Blanchett and Hawkins much praise and attention at the imminent 2014 awards season.

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