"Who do you have to sleep with around here to get a Stoli martini with a twist of lemon?"
Woody Allen has returned to the States for this film after experiencing some extended vacations over Europe (To Rome with Love, Midnight in Paris, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona), and this time the story takes place mostly in San Francisco, although we do get several interesting flashbacks in New York (Allen's favorite filming location). I mention these locations because in most of his films these cities are actual characters and sometimes even main ones. There were two general criticisms I had read about Blue Jasmine before watching it, one was that this was Woody Allen's return to form and the second was that Cate Blanchett's performance was magnificent. I agree with the second statement because Blanchett delivers one of the best performances of the year and she is the main reason why this film actually worked for me. As for the second statement I have to differ because I thought Midnight in Paris was his best recent film and I enjoyed it much more than Blue Jasmine. I do have to say that Woody Allen's capacity for writing and directing these films in such a short period of time (he's directed one every year for the past decades) impresses me. He has a unique voice in all of his films that sometimes make me picture him talking through each one of his characters. I remember something similar happening to me during college when I would be reading over my notes as I studied for a final exam actually listening to my professors unique voice in my head as I read. This is what happens to me often during a Woody Allen film as I imagine his head popping over one of his characters. It happened during this film as well, except for Blanchett's character who managed to bring her unique style which took a voice of its own. She deserves all the accolades she's been receiving from her peers and critics alike. It was a wonderful performance and an affecting one as well.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) was a New York socialite who lived a happy and blessed life with her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), until he was sent to prison for fraudulent business acts. We get to discover some darker secrets about their past as the story unravels through flashbacks, but the film opens at the present as Jasmine is returning to San Francisco to live with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her two sons, completely broke. She has experienced several mental breakdowns due to her traumatic past, and despite being estranged from her sister during that time, Ginger takes her in. Jasmine imposes on Ginger who wasn't as blessed as she was and is working at a grocery store while dating Chili (Bobby Canavale). Jasmine and Chili don't get along too well as she has interfered in his plans to move in with Ginger. Jasmine is always telling her that she should find someone better like she did (which wasn't really the case) and that is the reason for the constant friction between them. In San Francisco, Jasmine meets another wealthy man named Dwight (Peter Saarsgard) who she begins dating, and which gives her hope that she will recover her past glory, but her constant lies begin catching up with her affecting her relationship with him and her sister.
I wouldn't say this is a character driven story because I felt a lot of them were one dimensional characters, with the exception of Jasmine of course. The people in Woody Allen's films don't tend to feel real or authentic at times, and they usually are just cartoonish caricatures from a bubbled world. Allen's films aren't the laugh out loud type either, I find them funny in a rather witty way. He is slick at times and the scenes put a smile on your face, but they don't have you laughing hysterically. Blanchett does manage to portray Jasmine in a more authentic and believable way, showing her flaws and inner struggles with her mental illness. It's a character that we find hard to sympathize with, but also feel sorry for as her life begins falling apart. She's the type of person who cannot be on her own and is always depending on someone. I also liked the way in which Woody Allen told the story and let the past unravel smoothly through flashbacks revealing several things about her character. This along with Blanchett's performance is what saves the movie and makes it entertaining, but I wouldn't agree with the critics who are saying this is Allen's best work in years. I do agree it is perhaps his most tragic and darkest comedy in recent years.