There is a fairly new pattern in the world. Every two years Woody Allen makes a good movie. Between that his movies are either really, really bad or truly acquired taste. After an unholy abomination that was From Rome with Love, truly one of Allen's worst, comes delightful, mature, insightful and surprisingly dark Blue Jasmine.
Jasmine (mesmerizing Cate Blanchett, who in two months time will be collecting an Oscar for this performance, refreshing that Oscar will go to worthy performance, after going to Lawrence last year) is an odd, neurotic woman. For years she has been married to a man who swept her off her feet when she was young, just before she had a chance to finish college. Hal (Alec Baldwin) introduced her to the life of wealth and luxury. When it turns out he is a crook and Hal goes to jail (where he hangs himself) all is taken away from Jasmine. Soon she runs out of any money and stays with her down to earth, ordinary sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins)
The film is a clever look at a person who fell from grace and now needs to find herself in a mundane world most people live in. Jasmine has a posh accent, refined taste and elegant clothes. She also has a sense of entitlement and contempt for others. Those traits make her situation even more difficult - she won't take just any job because she thinks it's beneath her.
Jasmine's sense of entitlement and illusion of grandeur make for a number of very funny scenes - best of which happens when Jasmine screams 'this is so embarrassing!' after her dentist boss forces her to kiss him. Jasmine doesn't care about the assault - all she cares about is that kissing a dentist is so much beneath her her status. Former status in reality, but in Jasmine's head - something that's part of her forever.
The film is also a homage for A Streetcar Named Desire - we have a delusional heroine, her plain sister and sister's temperamental partner - here named Chili, an ordinary guy who drinks too much but loves Ginger. All those similarities are delightful to watch, especially given that Blanchett played Blanche Dubois on Broadway and Alec Baldwin played Stanley Kowalski in 1995 adaptation.
But it's all about Jasmine. Cate Blanchett has been one of my favorite actresses for years now. Before Blue Jasmine I adored her work in Elizabeth the most. But Blanchett was always wonderful - her performances in Veronica Guerin, Notes on a Scandal, I'm Not There, Aviator and many others proved time and time again that she is a very gifted and versatile actress.
That said, Blanchett's work as Jasmine is a league on its own. It's like she completely let go of any brakes, lost herself in character and then in that character lost herself yet again. Blanchett completely disappears into Jasmine - she doesn't hit one false note in extraordinarily difficult performance to pull off.
There were times where Jasmine was scary to look at - her staring off at nothing at all, looking angry and brokenm as well as during the times Jasmine was blabbering to herself with manic expression on her face. Another thing that made her so interesting to watch is the ambivalence I had for her - on one hand Jasmine is incredibly selfish and she has done some terrible things. On another it's impossible not to feel sorry for her, considering how delusional and lonely she is.
Blanchett is completely fearless - she is not afraid of looking completely haggard or consumed by madness - Jasmine is often drenched in sweat, shaking, with mascara running on her face. Her appearance matches her shaky mental state - Blanchett actually makes Jasmine look so unhinged she appears to be dangerous. And yet she never loses her delusion of being worthy of so much.
While Blanchett completely owns this movie, the supporting cast is impressive. Allen has an eye for talented actors and his films never disappoint when it comes to impressive ensemble. Sally Hawkins plays Ginger, Jasmine's sister and her polar opposite. Hawkins plays her as a character that's very grounded, but she still hopes for great love and someone who is going to treat her like a lady.
Then there is Bobby Cannavale as her boyfriend, who is certainly memorable. Cannavale was really good here, even though his character is slightly one dimensional. Louis C.K. shows up and as excellent as he usually is, I couldn't help but think he was a bit of a miscast here. Peter Skarsgard is really convincing playing a complete asshole, as Jasmine's boyfriend with similar illusion of grandeur. Still, it's Blanchett's show.
The film is beautifully shot and the color blue is cleverly inserted in many scenes - in Jasmine's clothing, the look on the ocean, the color of the car. The music, as usually in Allen's films is elegant and fits the film brilliantly. You won't be able to stop thinking about Blue Moon for a while after this one.
The film's another wonderful aspect is its great, ambiguous and dark ending. It reminded me a lot of the courageous way in which Allen ended The Purple Rose of Cairo. If you hated Jasmine, you probably won't find the ending dark, but if you had a bit of sympathy for her, it's not something you are going to be able to forget soon.
Considering how wonderful Blue Jasmine was, I reckon Magic in the Moonlight is going to be absolute fiasco. Still, it would be hard to top From Rome with Love.