Another of Woody Allen’s finest, Blue Jasmine depicts Jasmine’s (Cate Blanchett) demise from grace as she is haunted by her husband’s affairs, imprisonment and suicide. She is forced to trade her New York life of excess, wealth and socialites for her tacky, adoptive sister’s flat in San Francisco. Similar to my last review of Ferrante’s novel, we are presented with an unravelling woman.
Cate Blanchett delivers an impeccably delicate performance, which will certainly be award-winning, enveloping the audience in her insanity. She plays with the audience’s emotions as we constantly shift from maddeningly despising the character to feeling genuine pity for her. Through Jasmine’s frenzied, nonsensical speech and flashbacks to her old life, starkly contrasting with her new-found modesty, the audience is disorientated and struggles with her. Allen skilfully and paradoxically places Jasmine’s collapse in the incongruous surroundings of the Upper East Side, next to the New York socialite bubble of hosting, jewellery and looking the other way. Jasmine is the focal presence of the film and she is wonderfully draining to watch, as she pops Xanax, gulps spirits from the bottle, cries desperately, smiles nervously and sweats profusely. But something much more captivating and sinister lies beneath the archetypal Fall narrative.
Both Allen and Ferrante craft a captivating story, centring on the woman’s mind, out of a seemingly traditional abandonment story. Allen questions stereotypes of class, notions of success and of worth. He creates a distorted world where the likes of Jasmine and her East Side sister, Ginger, exist alongside one another. Allen’s satirical approach to his blue Jasmine leads the audience to question the true worth of her life, as she lacks everything real. This is only intensified as the endearing Ginger (Sally Hawkins) creeps into the frame, earning Hawkins a claim to best-supporting actress. The question of whether success is a product of ‘good genes’ is left uncomfortably in the air, intensifying the distance between Jasmine and Ginger. Even more, Jasmine’s total delusion and self-construction as she tries to maintain her socialite status highlights the film’s play with rebirth. Jasmine’s perfectly slick and detestable ex-husband (appropriately played by Alec Baldwin) comments that he “fell in love with the name Jasmine”. The Jasmine persona (her birth name was Jeanette) dominates the film oppressively and as the film progresses, we realise the irreversibly constructed nature of Jasmine’s life. Without including spoilers, the true shock comes as we realise victimised Jasmine is not only the architect of her life, but also of her downfall.
You can catch Blue Jasmine at the Campus Cinema on December 3rd.
by Isabelle Pitman, Razz Film and Literature Correspondent