The arrival of a new Woody Allen motion picture on the cinema screens has become an annual event in the minds of the avid cinema goer. Allen’s latest offering, Blue Jasmine, is a slight departure from the comedic tones of his previous two films, To Rome With Love and the Academy Award winning Midnight In Paris, depicting a more serious story. The film is not devoid of laughs, however, and it is these moments of humour that demonstrate Woody’s range as a writer and director.
The titular character, Jasmine (played to perfection by Cate Blanchett), is another protagonist fraught with the neuroses explored in Woody Allen’s previous works, though Jasmine is not the same as Fielding Mellish or Alvy Singer; she is a complex woman, destroyed by the aftermath of her marriage to charming bounder, Hal (played by Alec Baldwin, in his third collaboration with Allen). With no prospects and no money (despite her ability to afford first class air travel with Louis Vuitton luggage), Jasmine turns to her step sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), whose lifestyle is not as expensive as Jasmine is used to. This change of environment for Jasmine provides much of the film’s humorous moments, most notably Jasmine’s consistent dismissal of working as a dentist’s receptionist, before finally accepting in order to fund her dream career as a interior designer. As Jasmine struggles to cope with Ginger’s dates, her computer course and her rocky past (told through several flashbacks), her character unravels slowly, demonstrating the great power of Allen’s writing and direction combined with Blanchett’s superb performance. Though a more serious work than Allen’s previous offerings, Blue Jasmine also draws humour from the snobbery of Jasmine, as well as scenes including Ginger’s romantic interest, Al, played by American comedian, Louis C.K., and Jasmine’s struggle as a receptionist.
The soundtrack to Blue Jasmine is typical Woody Allen. Jazz plays a prominent role in the score, with the clarinet (Allen’s instrument of choice) taking centre stage once again. The key track of the film is undoubtedly Blue Moon, which Jasmine often recalls was playing when she first met Hal; despite this the track only features briefly. The writing and direction of the film is an excellent example of the range within Woody Allen, as with many of his recent works. Films such as To Rome With Love illustrate his capability to replicate the humour seen in earlier works, where Blue Jasmine demonstrates that Woody is a serious filmmaker capable of making audiences feel amused and melancholic simultaneously. Speculation of Academy Awards for Cate Blanchett’s performance do carry some weight and it is very possible that Oscars could be heading towards this film.
Blue Jasmine is an example of the diversity within Allen’s career as a writer and director. Many think of Allen as the mastermind behind the nebbish character as seen in Bananas and Take The Money And Run, before moving on to more dramatic films such as Annie Hall and Manhattan (whilst retaining the character he immortalised in his earlier films). Though the aforementioned films are comedy dramas, Blue Jasmine could be defined as a drama with humorous moments. One defining difference, however, is that the neuroses are played less for humour. Sympathy is felt towards Jasmine and this has been achieved by the strong writing and direction of Allen combined with the incredible performance by Cate Blanchett. Though Woody may hate the fact, Blue Jasmine could very well be another Oscar winning film from the septuagenarian.
Review by LiveWire Film Critic, Jorge Walsh (September ’13)