First Look Review: Blue Jasmine ★★★★☆

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Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s 13th consecutive directorial effort since the millennium and the most recent of over 40 films spanning his career.  For the mega fans amongst us, a new Woody Allen film each year is as eagerly anticipated and expected as Christmas. After the less than mediocre reviews of last years To Rome With Love, Blue Jasmine is set to be a retreat to a new greatness judging by its US reviews.

In pattern with his former films, Blue Jasmine features an all star ensemble cast including actors Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett and Peter Sarsgaard as well as thriving US comedians Louis  C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay.

What seems different about Blue Jasmine is how it can not be categorized into the popular Woody Allen genres, it is neither a romantic comedy a la Manhattan (1979) or Midnight in Paris (2011) nor a dark serious film like that of Interiors (1978) or Another Woman (1987). It is not just another film of an upper class metropolitan hero existentially pondering their existence. Instead we’re given something new (for a Woody Allen film, at least), a cruel and broken wench of a character, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) left abandon from the usual glamorous Allen film traits.

Jasmine is forced to leave her wealthy life in New York, left homeless after her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin) leaves her for another woman to move in with her lower class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her blue collar boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) in San Francisco. Through flashbacks we learn Hal was a crook who was arrested and committed suicide in jail leaving Jasmine broke. It is in San Francisco, she tries to get her life back together with a lethal combination of lies and social climbing which doesn’t seem to bring her any salvation.

Many have speculated that the film is a loose adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. Jasmine parallels the character Blanche Du Bois in her fall from grace, snobbery, social climbing, alcoholism and deep depression throughout the film. This is something Cate Blanchett has been acclaimed for portraying in a recent stint in an Australian production of the play. She recently said in an interview on preparing for the film she thought about the Madoff Scandal because, as she put it, “that’s the holocaust of the financial crisis. And there are many, many women like that. I followed them like everybody else did, but as an actress you go back and you’re slightly more forensic about those relationships.”

It is clear Woody Allen was seeking a new angle on which to make a film and for potentially the first time it’s a more explicit socio-political one. Here, we have a variation in characters- the manual labourer, crook, budding politician, philandering sister and manic depressive protagonist. There aren’t any outright heroes.  They are all people with their own real problems as opposed to that of the 90 minutes of the juvenile love triangles that occur whilst on holiday in Barcelona, Paris or Italy (that we all adore). Instead, Allen is favoring a more realistic experience of those victims to economic and emotional hardship in 2013. Well, an upper class New Yorker’s experience. Perhaps moving the film to San Francisco was a metaphorical transition from the classic Woody Allen film.

This doesn’t seem like a preachy film by any means but is indeed in contrast in tone to that of the last few films. I don’t expect to see any picturesque love scenes over a sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge. However, I am excited to see how this different style will present itself.

Blue Jasmine (2013), directed by Woody Allen, is released in cinemas by Warner Bros. Pictures on 27th September, Certificate 12A. 


 

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