I’ve been watching the awards circuit this year and Cate Blanchett, during the Golden Globes, won Best Actress for her role of Jasmine in Woody Allen’s film “Blue Jasmine.” While I try to see any Woody Allen film I can (I haven’t seen “To Rome with Love” yet), the fact that she won an award for her role in the film made me want to see it more.
The movie is about two adult adopted sisters Jasmine and Ginger (played by Sally Hawkins – who is nominated for an Oscar for her role). The movie, as does their lives, focuses around Jasmine and her mental state. Her life is in the midst of financial, emotional and psychological ruin after her husband, Hal (played by Alec Baldwin), is convicted on a variety of corporate fiscal charges that lead the feds to convict him and seize everything they owned. In the midst of despair, Jasmine begins to have a nervous breakdown that forces her to move to San Francisco (from New York) to live with Ginger.
The story is told through a series of flashbacks, contrasting Jasmine’s life in San Fran versus her time in New York. A lot of time is also spent on the relationship of the sisters. Jasmine, even throughout her despair, retains an elitist persona when engaged with Ginger although Ginger has taken her in during her time of need.
Going back to Blanchett, her performance in the film is well worthy of the Oscar nomination. Jasmine is disillusioned, depressed, egotistical, narcissistic, dealing with severe post-traumatic stress and a bevy of other mental issues. The story, which Woody based off of a conversation with his wife, is undeniably a tragedy that will incite a love/hate relationship towards Jasmine. On one hand, the viewer feels sorry to see her lose everything in her life, yet by the end of the film it almost feels ok – based on the way she treated a lot of people in her life.
One specific thing I liked about her performance is how she was so focused on getting her degree. She met Hal in her last year of college and as her life is crumbling around her tries to go back to the period where she felt her life stopped and their life began.
If Blanchett is the anti-hero then Hawkins’ character is definitely the person we should feel happy for by the end of the film. She takes in her sister, finds love and develops a sense of unique confidence in her life. But even if we do root for her, finding happiness in the combined situation of the two sisters is hard because we, the viewer, ultimately knows what will happen to the two after the camera stops rolling.
It’s odd, yet understandable, that the film has three Oscar nominations (best actress, best supporting actress and best original screenplay) yet didn’t receive best picture consideration. Something feels missing from the film. Maybe we do not form as much of an emotional bond with Jasmine as we should – which, if you watch, will se is understandable. It’s also possible that the film has pacing issues – but I think that it really mirrors the psychological state of Jasmine.
The film is definitely worth a watch. At its heart, it is a character study – a very tragic one. If I had to rate it, it would be close to 4 out of 5 stars (but not quite there).