Craig's First Take: "Blue Jasmine"

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A compelling life story about a woman in crises who heads to San Francisco, where she reconnects with her sister.
3.5

It will be hard to imagine looking at a list of Oscar nominees for Best Actress and not seeing Cate Blanchett’s name on it. Her performance in Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” is a tight rope walk of being an intolerable snob and mentally fragile victim, and really few could probably write that better than Allen. God knows it didn’t work for Kristin Wiig in “Girl Most Likely” a couple weeks back. But Blanchett is really something here, as is Allen, whose honesty here is more striking than the few funny bits.

Blanchett is Jasmine, a woman who quit college to be with an older investor named Hal (Alec Baldwin). Well it turns out Hal was not only part of an investment scheme, but he was also cheating on her. This sends the reeling Jasmine into a nervous breakdown, and after that to San Francisco to live with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Ginger has always seen herself as the genetically imperfect sister, and Jasmine’s treatment of her over the years has been less than kind. Ginger has a thing for rough-around-the-edges guys (Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay) to Jasmine’s dismay.

There’s quite a bit that still irks Jasmine about Ginger; that she enjoys the company of rough-around-the-edges men like Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) and Chilli (Bobby Cannavale), both of the definition of a greaseball Italian and the source of the movie’s best laughs, just one of many things. Augie and Chilli aren’t terribly appreciative of her either.

Ginger is non-judgemental to her own fault while Jasmine couldn’t roll her eyes at most people fast enough. Allen explores points such as people will do anything to fulfill their own self interests, they’ll attach themselves to the wrong people only if it seems better than the alternative, and are so adapted to their lives that nearly any change would be catastrophic.

Allen goes back and forth between the happy times of Jasmines marriage, where she was a pretentious, careless, and snobby New York Princess (missing yoga would be her biggest inconvenience), to the pile of rubble she is now, prone to babbling, developing an alcohol and pill problem, and going into detached states of reality where she talks to herself. She’s so clueless now that flying first class just seems like a given to her, even if she has no money. Blanchett turns what could have been an unlikable woman into an identifiable and tragic one.

Offering fine support is Hawkins, Cannavale, Dice Clay, Louis C.K, and Peter Saarsgard, as a possible beau for Jasmine. Allen has put together one of his best casts and most human stories he’s done in years and while it does feel like we always know where this thing is going, it’s those basic human truths, and Blanchett’s stellar work, that stays with you most of all.