YEP YEP – The unique, and at times perplexing, thing about tracking Woody Allen’s films over the past decade is waiting to see if the actor or actress he casts as his on-screen alter ego can sufficiently summon the requisite neurosis to capitalize on his distinct writing style.
For nearly the last 20 years, Allen has restrained himself from stepping in front of the camera, choosing instead to channel his voice through any number of stars dying for the chance to take a crack at the Woody pinata of self-loathing and cynicism.
For Blue Jasmine he chose Cate Blanchett.
Wise ol’ Woody sure got this one right! Blanchett’s performance is spectacular. A virtuoso performance from one of the very best actors in the world.
The circumstances of the story are unmistakably similar to Tennessee Williams’ groundbreaking A Streetcar Named Desire. A high society woman forced to turn to her blue-collar sister (Sally Hawkins) for shelter, crashing in to her sister’s crude, unsophisticated boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) who liked things better before she came around.
The emotional stakes of her performance as Jasmine, however, are more in line with John Cassavetes’ brilliant A Woman Under the Influence. A woman grappling with a nervous breakdown and the dangerously unpredictable effects of bi-polar disorder.
She doesn’t just pull it of…she knocks it out of the park. Man, she’s good in this film.
Diane Keaton won Best Actress for Woody’s masterpiece, Annie Hall; Dianne Wiest won two Oscars under his spell, Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway; Penelope Cruz snagged one for Vicky Cristina Barcelona – even the unlikely Mira Sorvino was able to take home the golden statue for Mighty Aphrodite.
I can’t think of a better female performance this past year than Blanchett’s. Might just be another notch on the Woody wand. She’s a cinch to be nominated.
“I wanted to make sure all the fireplaces work,” financial pyramid chiseler Hal (Alec Baldwin) says as he shows Jasmine their new palace. “I don’t like it when they are just for show.”
A throw-away line in the first ten minutes of the picture that foreshadows everything about their relationship.
Allen is unapologetically autobiographical in his writing. His inner-life always voiced by his fictional characters.
Much like Midnight In Paris revealed Allen’s love for that city, Blue Jasmine enlightens us to another of the director’s favorites.
“If you can’t fall in love in San Francisco,” one friend tells Jasmine after a computer class she is taking to re-invent herself. “You can’t fall in love anywhere.”
Then there’s the usual Woody angst.
“You know, there’s only so many traumas a person can withstand before they take to the street and start screaming.”
He’s still got it.