Dear Woody. I would not ordinarily begin a review addressing the director, but your latest film is a gift that warrants a monumental thank you. After making movies for more than four decades and being responsible to my mind, for more classics than any other writer-director in history, you have surpassed yourself with this latest offering and it should be mandatory viewing for those who have ever doubted you.
While “a return to form” is how some critics have chosen to describe your work over the past few years, I’ve never felt you lost your way and after the mood-elevating Midnight in Paris and To Rome With Love, you’ve made a film that reminds us of your talent for character creation and balancing pathos and comedy like no one else can.
As the Jasmine of the title, Cate Blanchett is a revelation and you wrote the role with her in mind. We knew she was good, but she is jaw-droppingly fantastic as the brittle Manhattan socialite whose world unravels when her slick millionaire husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin) turns out to be a fraudster of Bernie Madoff proportions. Broke and with nowhere else to go, Jasmine moves to San Francisco to live with her earthy and kind-hearted sister Ginger (sublime Sally Hawkins), who is prepared to overlook the past transgressions of a sibling who effectively ruined her life.
The flashbacks to the jewel-clad high life Jasmine once led are masterfully played by the ensemble and credit goes to your costume designer Suzy Benziger, who has captured the very essence of a chic New Yorker’s wardrobe.
Dress is such an intrinsic part of your films and it is the clash of clothing and culture that makes us see how dreadful Jasmine was when Ginger and her bIue-collar husband (Andrew Dice Clay) come to visit.
Having turned a blind eye to the dubious source of her wealth, Jasmine’s fall from grace in Prada heels seems justified, yet Blanchett’s extraordinary performance as this weak, disgraced figure with a continuing air of entitlement is so moving and hypnotic that she commands our pity. It has been suggested that this film is your modern day adaptation of A Street Car Named Desire with the pill-popping, vermouth-swigging Jasmine as your Blanche DuBois.
This may be so, but Tennessee Williams would have no issues with it as it is a monumental tribute. As a film in its own right, Blue Jasmine deserves every plaudit that’s going.