Twitter Plot Summary: Unhinged Jasmine moves in with her sister after her husband is arrested for dubious financial dealings.
Director: Woody Allen
Key Cast: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis CK, Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale.
Five Point Summary:
1. Talking to herself on the plane. This could be interesting.
2. Now she’s talking to two kids about her personal life. Egads.
3. Louis CK and Andrew Dice Clay – surprisingly good performances for standup comedians.
4. Trouble is afoot – it all starts to unravel.
5. And lo, it ends perfectly.
Jasmine is in dire straights. All of her money is gone thanks to the pyramid scheme dealings of her husband, he was sent to prison and has since hung himself in his cell, and now she’s been forced to move from New York to San Francisco and live with her sister until she’s back on her feet.
It’s another confession time – this is the first Woody Allen film I’ve ever seen, which given how many films he’s made is quite an achievement – an average of one a year. That’s a particularly impressive routine, more so because the films invariably seem to be of a high quality. As it happens I chose a particularly excellent one to start with, even if it takes many of its cues from A Streetcar Named Desire.
The story cuts between the present and the events leading up to her husband’s arrest, flipping between the relaxed socialite Jasmine and the fraught, on the edge Jasmine of the present. Narratively there’s a lot going for this, particularly as we the audience know what’s going to happen to her and so go into the flashbacks aware that it will all come crashing down by film’s end.
Cate Blanchett puts in one of the performances of her career, portraying a woman who’s mental state is fractured and desperately in need of therapy. Instead she necks pills like they’re going out of fashion, and it’s a rare thing to see her without alcohol in her hand. She’s a compulsive liar too, wrapping herself around rich socialite Peter Sarsgaard, inventing a career and a history for herself in the process. That’s when she’s not staring into space and talking to herself, of course, spouting monologues about how her former husband wooed her (to the tune of Blue Moon), then drinking some more and popping a few more pills.
Jasmine is not a likeable character, let’s make that clear. She looks down on Ginger’s life simply because she doesn’t live in privileged circumstances. She tries to make her want more than what she has despite the fact Ginger is actually quite happy with her position in life. She’s one of those people who wants nothing to do with you whilst she has all of the money and power, but once that situation changes, as it invariably does, her attitude swings a complete 180 degrees and she’s demanding your help.
Alec Baldwin does his usual slimey spiel, a conman clearly in control for the most part and being able to get a lot past his wife who remains blissfully ignorant. Sally Hawkins is likewise excellent as non-biological sister Ginger (they were adopted, so that’s another level of psychoanalysis there just waiting for a discussion) who doesn’t have much but she has a guy in her life that she cares for, an apartment and two kids. She’s happy, however Jasmine’s presence interrupts the flow and causes its own fair share of problems. Then there’s the supporting cast of Peter Sarsgaard, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay and Louis CK, all of whom are equally impressive.
To say Blue Jasmine is a good film would be underselling it massively. Everybody involved puts in a solid performance and the script is funny yet tragic in equal measure – scenes such as the one with Jasmine and her nephews in the diner intercut between real drama and comedy with almost every line of dialogue, it’s masterful storytelling. Blanchett should get an Oscar nod for her turn as Jasmine, and if Sally Hawkins doesn’t get a Best Supporting Actress nod for her role as Ginger, then there’s clearly something wrong with the Academy’s decision making process.
Favourite scene: Jasmine sits in a diner and bears her soul to her nonplussed nephews.
Quote: “Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming.”