When your career spans as many decades as director Woody Allen’s it’s inevitable you will go through fallow patches.
In truth, Allen’s more recent output has never matched the giddy days of Manhattan and Annie Hall, but now he marks a real return to form with Blue Jasmine.
He’s helped enormously by his leading lady, the luminous Cate Blanchett, his eponymous anti-hero, addled by booze, pills and mental instability, crashing the life of her docile sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) when her own luxurious lifestyle comes tumbling down around her ears.
For once upon a time, Jasmine had it all; the handsome, seemingly successful husband (Alec Baldwin playing to his strengths); the house in the Hamptons; the money, the clothes and the glamorous friends. What she now has to face is the fact it was all a sham built on dodgy business deals.
Jasmine has lost everything in spectacular style and so has come to live in a downmarket area of New York with her sister’s family in their tiny flat. She keeps saying it is only temporary until she gets on her feet again, but it is clear from every flick of her eyelashes, wave of her hand, one-sided conversation and gulp of vodka that Jasmine is so far in a state of denial she is never going to be able to claw her way back out again. She gets a job, she loses the job. She meets a new man (Peter Sarsgaard) and promptly loses him, too. She says she can survive on her own while she patently cannot.
In fact, Jasmine is a hopeless monster of me, me, me selfishness and could become a hideous caricature in less skilful hands, but Blanchett makes her fascinating; you despise her and yet cannot stop watching her.
People are talking Oscars for Blanchett’s performance and while the rest of the cast is also good, it is Blanchett who dominates the screen. With her size zero figure, designer clothes and accessories, she manages to convey Jasmine’s continued belief in an existence which was always based on lies, while her babbled stream of consciousness dialogue reveals the real truth – this lady is irretrievably broken and lost.
Woody Allen could not have cast his leading lady better if he’d tried.