It's incredible to think that Woody Allen's career spans six decades and over forty movies. All cinema is a matter of taste and I can almost clearly divide Allen's films into those that I didn't enjoy so much (Melinda and Melinda, Anything Else, Mighty Aphrodite) and those that I did (Bullets Over Broadway, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Annie Hall). Blue Jasmine falls very much in the second category.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) arrives in San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and make a new life for herself. Through flashbacks, we get to see Jasmine's former high life in New York and her marriage to Hal (Alec Baldwin), a smooth-talking financial executive with more than a few secrets of his own. There are secrets aplenty and some startling revelations to come as Jasmine tries to make a new life for herself whilst trying to get away from the past.
I don't think I've ever seen Cate Blanchett give a bad performance (even in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull) but her performance here is just sublime, up there for me with her incredible portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator. Jasmine is a polished, almost glacial figure but the hysteria and nerves are never far from the surface, erupting quite spectacularly on some occasions. Blanchett is a tremendous actress and softens some of Jasmine's rougher, more neurotic edges, effortlessly throwing out zingers like 'There's only so many traumas a person can withstand until they take to the streets and start screaming' without seeming kooky or absolutely unhinged. It's a fine balancing-act but Blanchett pulls it off with aplomb.
Other performances are also stellar, particularly Sally Hawkins as Ginger, a tough, no-nonsense woman whose life is also thrown into chaos when Jasmine descends. The British actress more than holds her own in scenes with Blanchett and Ginger's individual storyline is as emotionally affecting as Jasmine. Baldwin is great as the slightly oily but also very charming Hal, whilst Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K. and Bobby Cannavale all turn in great performances as the various men in Ginger's life. Particular praise must also be given to Alden Ehrenreich, who has a few important scenes as Jasmine and Hal's son Danny.
Allen's script is strong, amongst the strongest he's done in my opinion. His direction is also clear, eliciting great performances from everyone. In places, Blue Jasmine is laugh-out-loud funny; in others, unexpectedly moving. Blanchett's superlative performance is worth the price of your ticket alone, but this film has a lot to recommend it.
Rating: 4 out of 5