Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen, 2013)

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Another year, another Woody Allen film. After the Italian set comedy To Rome With Love, Woody Allen returns with this comedy-drama starring Cate Blanchett about a New York socialite moving in with her sister, played by Sally Hawkins, after her husband is arrested for performing financial scams. Jasmine moves in with her sister, Ginger, in San Francisco and must start a new life after the sudden change she’s been through.
The films opens with Jasmine on the plane to San Francisco where she talks endlessly about her life, about her husband and how she met him when the song Blue Moon was playing. She is presented as an arrogant, exhausting, fake person who thinks is above everyone, while also having a tragicomic side that makes her at times quite hilarious. The sad part is there wouldn’t be much to laugh at in real life since Jasmine is slowly going crazy and starts talking to herself, but in this film we can’t help laughing at how ridiculous Jasmine is sometimes. She doesn’t have a college degree, she dropped out of college before the last year to marry her husband and now intends to go back to school so she can be someone substantial. The story presents in flashbacks to Jasmine’s rich life with her husband and her wealthy friends. The films presents in the first half of the story how Jasmine attempts to start a new life and how she manages with moving to San Francisco while also introducing Jasmine’s relationship with Ginger.

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It’s hard to sympathize with Jasmine, she’s a very unlikable character but we can’t help watching how she tries to put her life together. This part makes up the funnier side of the film. Cate Blanchett gives one of the best performances in a Woody Allen film. She completely transforms herself into this both sad and funny character. Blanchett didn’t get to show her comedic chops before but here we see that she can really make us laugh. I don’t see her in a physical comedy based film, so the witty Woody Allen lines suit her perfectly. Jasmine is a very well written role, a meaty one that every actress would kill for. Jasmine’s decent into madness is so well captured by the actress that I am not surprised by her Best Actress win this year. She is a remarkable presence, helped also by the fantastic cast including Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Andrew Dice Clay and Louis C.K..

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Now talking about Hawkins. Her role isn’t as consistent as Blanchett’s, but she deserves as much praise. Ginger is opposite to Jasmine. She is a simple person, living a normal life, struggling to raise her children and having a blossoming relationship with her fiancee played by Bobby Cannavale. She is a loving person and wants to help Jasmine with restarting her life and lets her stay in for as long as she needs to. She shouldn’t be so welcoming to Jasmine seeing how bad Jasmine thinks of her, her family and choice in men. She isn’t obliged to be like this, considering that they are not biological sisters and that both of them were adopted when they were little. Hawkins gives a very sweet performance. We see how Jasmine brings a new spark in her life and a desire to want better things in life that makes her do some changes. I liked that she had her little story and it wasn’t all just about Blanchett’s character.
The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Alec Baldwin plays Hal, Jasmine’s handsome, cheating and crook husband. Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale and Louis C.K. play the men in Ginger’s life. They were fine, however I have one issue. Louis C.K. didn’t have a big part and it wasn’t that he didn’t do a good job, I just didn’t find him believable in that role and I found his casting in this part to be strange. Peter Sarsgaard also has a small part as the new man in Jasmine’s life.

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Most of Allen’s films have a lesson to be learned. I struggled to find out exactly what this film is about and how we should feel about this story. I was curious to see which direction will Allen choose for his characters. The music plays a big part in the story and how we perceive it. There is a lot of light, happy jazz, even in the more bitter moments, that made me think we should view this film more as a comedy than a drama. I don’t think he misplaced the music, because he always used the music to the benefit of the scenes.
Also, Blue Jasmine is the kind of comedy, a brutally realistic one that ends on a strange note. I don’t really know what to think of the ending. It was too ambiguous. I don’t want a tied-with-a-ribbon end, I wished something would have been explained.
All in all, is nice to see Woody Allen’s still got it. Blue Jasmine, a film about life’s mistakes and life itself, is not one of his best films, but definitely a successful one brought to life by a remarkable lead performance from Cate Blanchett.

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