Blue Jasmine review

This year's offering from Mr Allen is of a more brittle nature than his more recent works. Yes, there are laughs to be had but the tone is dark – especially when the lead protagonist is so disturbed. Jasmine is a spoilt New York socialite fallen on hard times. It's a gift of a part and Blanchett plays it to the hilt. She's superb at colouring in the many facets of this complicated character. She plays the snootiness with aplomb, the neurosis with intelligence, the desperation with precision and the madness with passion.

It's a magnificent performance – one of Blanchett's very best in one of Allen's most memorable roles. But that's not to belittle the terrific supporting cast. All are first rate. Hawkins is believably vulnerable and convincing as Ginger, the younger, poorer sister Jasmine stays with in sunny San Francisco. Dice Clay is wonderfully cynical and aggrieved as Ginger's ex husband, while Cannavale is agreeably dim and over-emotional as Ginger's current beau. Both dislike Jasmine for different reasons. Trying to get back on her feet, she gets a job as a dentist's receptionist and Stuhlbarg as her boss is excellent at unsuccessfully keeping his ardour for her at bay. Sarsgaard is welcomingly laid back and amiable as her potential new love interest.

The tale cross cuts between her new existence on the West Coast with her life previously in the Big Apple, contrasting the entirely different social strata of the two - the lower class milieu of her cramped San Francisco abode with her plush and opulent New York existence, drinking champagne in upscale holiday homes and throwing lavish dinner parties. All of these thanks to wealthy husband Hal (Baldwin), a smooth talking businessman who is eventually jailed for fraud. Baldwin is perfect in the role, a schemer with a heart of ice. His crime precipitates Jasmine's fall from grace and it is her inability to adapt to her new frugal lifestyle that gives the tale its core.

Learned critics have pointed out the similarities to A Streetcar Named Desire in the character's torments – but Allen has his own voice, imbuing his effort with a freshness and vigour that is very compelling. Jasmine is a car wreck to be sure  - we watch with horror as she instigates the disasters in her life, but one doesn't feel that Allen is punishing her. You get a sense that he might have a demented affection for her. Despite Jasmine's awful personality, Blanchett makes her perversely persuasive. We laugh at her when she babysits Ginger's two young boys, getting drunk as she talks adult affairs to them.

The juxtaposition between the light and the shade of this tragic heroine is what makes Blue Jasmine one of Allen's more robust escapades. It's not a movie one warms to, but it does pierce the intellect and instil admiration. A very fine movie indeed.

Blue Jasmine at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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