Woody Allen's latest film, Blue Jasmine is my favourite film of 2013, and the reason centers mostly on Cate Blanchett and the performance of her character, Jasmine.
Simply put, her portrayal of Jasmine was stellar. wonderfully played a woman teetering on the brink of sanity. One moment, she is all smiles, fancy clothes, beautifully put together, and as charming as one would expect a rich Manhattan socialite to be. The next, her makeup is all askew, she has sweat marks, fumbling for xanax, gulping down vodka, staring off into space, and ultimately, speaking to herself as she lives in her memories. The contrast between both states, both physically and emotionally, bring very real tension and even shock to the viewer. We pull for her, but inside we know there are some serious flaws within, waiting to be released and unravel her attempts to reconstruct herself. This makes some scenes very difficult to watch.
Jasmine's main flaw was her inability to confidently make an identity of her own. She constantly berates Ginger for going after 'losers' to explain why she will never make something of herself or improve her station in life. Yet upon closer inspection, Ginger, despite being a single mother of very modest means (and as they like to imply in the film, intellect), is in fact a much stronger and happier person who's got it together. Jasmine's entire life was nothing but a house of cards, and completely dependent on her husband Hal (). She made no real achievements on her own. Once he left her, it was her own impulsive behaviour which set her down the road to ruin, as all of her possessions were taken and she was left penniless. After the fact, it became clear she couldn't hold a job, and was unwilling to work at something she deemed "below her". She was consumed with anxiety about her position in society. Once the rug was taken out from underneath her, she was helpless. Pathetic even, and unable to forge onward. Following that, bad things only started happening to Ginger when she began to follow Jasmine's advice.
On top of all of that, Jasmine behaves like a snob towards her sister, to the point where she was embarrassed to have her visit her in New York, and didn't even want to spend time with her. A pretty negative picture. Yet despite all of this, we like Jasmine. We want her to be happy and get herself back on track. Even through all the schizophrenic behaviour, unfair jests to her sister, and delusional thinking, when she finally meets Mr. Right again (), we want it to work for her. Perhaps it is just difficult to watch someone be in such a state in the their life, but I think it is 's character and Blanchett's performance that make her so sympathetic and inescapably likable. Her portrayal was that of a sensitive and fragile woman who for some reason had an aura of innocence around her. She does many unkind, and often simply pathetic things, but Jasmine somehow wins us over, or at least brings us to pity her.
Blue Jasmine also offers an interesting look into contrasting facets of contemporary American life. With the working class sensibilities and crassness of Ginger (), Chili (), and Augie () on one end and the opulent and pretentiousness of the upper crust of the American elite on the other. To be honest, neither of them seemed very appealing to me. One had crooked people with nicer views (some very beautiful locations in the film), the other had honest people with fewer prospects. Tellingly, this was manifested with the interactions between Chili and Jasmine, to great effect. His direct and vulgar personality was a difficult obstacle for Jasmine to deal with, and is where the comparisons to A Street Car Named Desire are most accurate. However, beyond his boorishness, he was an honest guy with a good heart. Contrasted with Hal, who superficially appeared to have it all, yet he was in fact a criminal and an adulterer.
The music in the film left no measurable impact on me. This is normally something I look out for but in this case, the chief drivers of the film were character and plot, which were developed very well. Allen's method of mixing the past and present was done excellently. Things would happen in the present which would trigger a flashback into a pivotal previous event. By the end of the memory, we were often left with a Jasmine moving ever closer to madness as she mumbled to herself and stared off into space. It was creepy and tragic at the same time.
I would also like to give the performances of and an honorable mention. Upon first seeing them on screen I couldn't suppress my laughter, but they both did surprisingly well.
In the end, the film was funny, entertaining from start to finish, and gives the viewer something to take away from it. So for all of the above reasons, this was my favourite film of the year.