Spencer Wilson
The Navigator

Image courtesy of impawards.com

I love a good Woody Allen movie. The opening credits roll, you are treated to some depression era jazz music, and you prepare yourself for a good script.

This film picks up with our main character, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), travelling by airplane from New York to live with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), in San Francisco. Right from the airplane trip it is clear that something is not right with Jasmine. An old woman sitting next to her on the plane is subjected to Jasmine’s nostalgic retelling of her wedding day where she describes the song “Blue Moon” being played for the first dance, and how Hal (Alec Baldwin) swept her off her feet.

These outbursts of narrating flashbacks to main characters and strangers becomes frequent, and we are told two intertwining stories as she recounts her old, high society life while trying to adjust to the humble living style of her sister.

It becomes clear that Jasmine simply can’t shut off her habits learned from living a very privileged life. Jasmine admits to being “tapped out” after her husband, a successful fraud man disguised as a real-estate king, is discovered by the FBI and thrown in jail. Despite this, she tells Ginger that she flew first-class without blinking an eye.

Ginger and her boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale), do their best to help the stubborn Jasmine by informing her of job opportunities to help get her on her feet, but she quickly refuses them, too embarrassed at the idea of selling shoes or being a receptionist.

While downing vodka and Xanax constantly, she convinces herself to go back to school, all while becoming more and more agitated.

Her real story is understood through flashbacks which are sometimes, awkwardly and surprisingly, edited in, as if they were the next scene of her present story, echoing Jasmine’s tendency to day-dream in the past. Every space in New York is spacious and lavish, contrasting with the cramped and claustrophobic settings of San Francisco. She is shown deceptively turning a blind eye to her husband’s business and admitting in the present to knowing nothing about it, letting life carry her as it will and playing the victim.

Blue Jasmine is filled with terrific performances, but Cate Blanchett really owns the character of Jasmine. Blanchett perfectly portrays the double-sided nature of Jasmine, who will play the victim in one scene and be convincingly deceitful in the next.

Many parallels are being drawn between this and A Streetcar Named Desire, simply because they both feature a woman who has a mental breakdown and then moves in with their sister, but this is clearly Woody Allen’s film, with his signature attention to detail in the script and in the shots (partly due to cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe). Even Jasmine herself admits to “having an eye for space and colour.”

Summer is over and pre-Oscar season is in. This film is what you might expect of its kind: a smart, story-driven character, drama, good acting and dialogue, and a twist at the end. While Blue Jasmine is not as light-hearted as his last hit, Midnight in Paris, it is certainly worth the watch and will most likely make an appearance at the Oscars.

If not for the story, go see it just for Cate Blanchett’s incredible performance as Jasmine. She will have you captivated all the way up to the film’s perfect ending.

Blue Jasmine is currently playing at the Avalon Cinemas in Nanaimo.

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