Blue Jasmine, which opens this Friday in select cities, is directed by Woody Allen – which automatically overrides anything else you might know about it. It’s pretty rare that a director’s name trumps a quick summary of the plot when describing a film, but “it’s Woody Allen” was the first thing I said when explaining this movie to anyone who asked. In two separate conversations with my parents that description prompted some pretty quick reactions. My dad said, “Well, maybe he hasn’t got it anymore” and my mom said, “I never cared for him.” Neither of these people have seen a Woody Allen movie in the past– and this is a conservative estimate– twenty years. I’m someone that does not have as strong feelings about Woody Allen. I liked Annie Hall and Vicky Cristina Barcelona and I didn’t like Midnight in Paris. I’m just trying to set the scene here, but the point is, Blue Jasmine is really freakin’ good and I don’t think it matters if you like Woody Allen or not.
Woody’s known for neurotic characters and Blue Jasmine replaces any hint of neuroses with straight up insanity. It’s about people and their relationships, money, a nervous breakdown, and how they all affect one another. The idea is not that complicated, but it’s through it’s format, fantastic acting, and unexpected moments, it kept me totally interested throughout.
Cate Blanchett plays, Jasmine, a Stoli martini chugging, Upper East Side snob of a woman, who loses everything when her venture capitalist husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), ends up in prison after making some illegal business moves. The events leading up to Hal’s arrest push Jasmine over the edge. We find out most of this through flashbacks because the movie begins with Jasmine moving in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), a single mother, grocery bagger living in San Francisco with her two kids. The women are as different as two, both adopted, sisters could be. Jasmine shows up with her Louis Vuitton (pronounced with the most put-on French accent) luggage, meets Ginger’s mechanic boyfriend, and attempts to make it as part of the real world. Her plan? Work as a receptionist, take computer classes, and become an interior designer. Only she still pops Xanax all the time and talks to herself as if she’s at one of her old dinner parties. “‘Blue Moon’. You remember ‘Blue Moon’? That’s the song that was playing when we met,” she says over and over– an easy conversation starter from her gala-filled past life.
Personally, I remember “Blue Moon” from Selena, but that is neither here nor there because Cate Blanchett is amazing as Jasmine, so much so that I didn’t even mind how much this line was repeated. She plays crazy wonderfully with her fast, perfectly snotty-sounding voice and jittery mannerisms. Watching her, at times, made me feel like I needed to take a Xanax. Also, she’s wears her outfits of Chanel jackets and Hermes bags well– the costuming was perfect. She was an Upper East Side lady gone mad. I’ll be seriously surprised if she isn’t nominated for an Oscar for this.
Sally Hawkins was also great as Ginger, who seemed totally at ease as a lady with a possibly crazy boyfriend and a definitely crazy sister that she doesn’t quite know what do to with. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with Louis C.K‘s character who seemed like a version of himself which was fine because I like him. Alec Baldwin as Hal seemed like a more douche-y version of his 30 Rock self which I was also on board with.
Blue Jasmine is about some pretty dramatic stuff– a mental illness, infidelity, strained familial relationships, forgiveness, the list goes on– but there were still funny moments most of which occurred because the characters boarder on being caricatures but don’t quite cross the line. Jasmine is ridiculous to the point where you go, could that really be a person’s life and could a person really act like that? But the answer to any of these questions was always, yes. That’s what made it so good. Seeing glassy-eyed, shaky Jasmine take her nephews out for pizza and rant to them about her life and “Edison’s medicine” (her word for shock therapy) over a glass of wine was laugh worthy while simultaneously being one of the strongest emotional scenes of the film.
Go see this movie. Screw what you think about Woody Allen, if anything. Blue Jasmine will keep you so involved that you won’t have time to think about preconceptions. Only about the fact that if Cate Blanchett doesn’t get that Oscar nom, there’d better be a damn good reason.