The cinema listings are looking pretty dire at the moment, with a cavalcade of animated kids films, tween fantasy novel adaptations and 3D concert spectacles. As much as I love drag racing snails, talking aeroplanes and One-effing-Direction, it seems we all need to wait for the pre-Oscars film season to actually see something decent.
But never fear! The diamond in the rough is modern-day auteur Woody Allen’s latest work Blue Jasmine, generating a thunderstorm of well-deserved awards buzz. Starring Cate Blanchett as the title character Jasmine, it follows the complete unravelling of a former New York socialite whose life of wealth and opulence is unceremoniously taken away after her husband’s (Alec Baldwin) business corruption is brought to light. Forced to move in with her average sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco, she struggles to rebuild her life and cope with a crippling mental illness.
The film is undeniably Woody Allen and a welcome return to form – dialogue-heavy, beautifully shot and equal parts funny and tragic, with a retro jazz score to boot. After his recent European flirtations in To Rome with Love and the acclaimed Midnight in Paris, Allen is back in New York to the delight of many, with a slice of San Fran to juxtapose the lavish before and stark after of Jasmine’s life.
However, Blue Jasmine is unquestionably stolen by the incredible Cate Blanchett. Well-worthy of the Oscar she’s a favourite to take home, her performance as the crumbling protagonist is extraordinary. A character study of the total breakdown of a privileged woman, her portrayal of the snobby upper-class housewife is brilliant, and her subsequent downward spiral is tragically poignant. Jumping back and forth in time, the comparison between her current and pre-breakdown states is subtle and painfully raw, drawing the viewer in right up to its final emotional punch.
The stellar supporting cast are also exceptional, with Hawkins’ Ginger as Jasmine’s polar opposite sister and Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy – I mean, Hal – as the dodgy ex-husband. Hell, even Louis C.K. makes an appearance. It’s good to see Woody as not only a master of cinema, but a totally relevant and modern filmmaker at the ripe old age of 77.
Blue Jasmine is a remarkable film that will leave you reeling. With a tone floating somewhere between a hard-hitting emotional drama and a tragically honest comedy, it’s one of Allen’s best works. Its ambiguous ending will make you unsure of where to invest your sympathies and who is really to blame as Jasmine’s once-perfect world spirals out of control. A beautiful insight into the flaws of humans, the struggle for a life’s purpose and the tragedies of mental illness, this is a definite must-see.