Woody Allen's latest demonstrates both his craftsmanship and his unique gift for balancing comedy and pathos
After two decades of disappointing movies inaccurately heralded as a ‘return to form’, Woody Allen finally gets back to his dexterous best with a beautifully wrought character study of Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), an unstable socialite poorly equipped to cope with the unpredictable lifestyle of her adoptive sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Introduced to us in the act of spilling her life story to a deeply uninterested fellow first-class air passenger, Jasmine’s enthusiasm to overshare is matched only by the selective quality of her lies.
After years of affluence while married to successful businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), her world has collapsed after his arrest for fraudulent work practices. With an aspirational lifestyle over, Jasmine moves in to Ginger’s tiny apartment, where the attentions of her sister’s boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) are a constant reminder that both women have dubious taste in men. While studying computing to facilitate a new career as an interior designer, Jasmine takes a part-time job as a dentist receptionist, but a chance encounter seems to offer a way back into high society on the arm of wealthy widower Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard).
Blue Jasmine is Allen’s most accomplished comedy / drama since Hannah and Her Sisters, and boasts a wealth of pitch-perfect performances. Cannavale, Hawkins and Baldwin are all well-cast, and there’s also good work from two comedians, Louis CK and Andrew Dice Clay, as Ginger’s lovers, past and present.
But the film belongs to Blanchett in a self-deceiving, selfish but never unsympathetic role; her Jasmine is an intoxicating presence, acerbically drawing a complex character whose dark secret is revealed in a powerful climactic scene. Blue Jasmine is a high-water mark for both Blanchett and Allen, who demonstrates a unique gift for balancing comedy and pathos which has eluded him for so long.
General release from Fri 27 Sep.