'Blue Jasmine' review: Cate Blanchett captivates in Woody Allen's latest gem
Woody Allen's latest dramatic comedy features a superb cast and is highlighted by one of the great acting performances of 2013.
In short: a once wealthy Manhattan socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is forced to move in with her working class sister (Sally Hawkins) when Jasmine loses everything and suffers a nervous breakdown. (watch the trailer)
Mark these words: Cate Blanchett will receive serious consideration during Award Season. Her performance as Jasmine is captivating. She is charmingly confident one moment, then intensely emotionally fragile the next moment. She never hesitates in pointing out the failings of those around her, while remaining blissfully ignorant of her own shortcomings. These incredible swings never feel abrupt - they feel realistic and natural for the anxiety-ridden Jasmine.
Jasmine's downward spiral so hard to watch ... but harder to look away from, thanks to Blanchett's brilliance. She gives Jasmine so much sincere range - from hysterical to poised - and a constantly simmering volatility that makes Jasmine capable to doing anything at anytime.
And Blanchett doesn't do all the heavy lifting alone. She is a surrounded by an incredible supporting cast, which features great turns from Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and - surprisingly - Andrew Dice Clay.
While the core narrative involving Jasmine is very strong, this film does wander a bit. An odd b-plot involving Jasmine's sister (Hawkins), Bobby Cannavale and (unfortunately) Louis C.K. saps focus and momentum from Jasmine's story, while not adding much to the film overall.
This latest Woody Allen gem is a masterfully crafted story, a film that weaves Jasmine's current attempt to rebuild her life with flashbacks of her former affluence. These parallel threads brilliantly tell Jasmine's story, revealing her character and establishing her past traumas as well as her continuing poor decisions. This masterful storytelling allows the completely unlikable Jasmine to make horrible, self-defeating choices - yet remain absolutely sympathetic.
Final verdict: 'Blue Jasmine' a riveting portrait of a woman's crumbling existence - and highlighted by an absolutely compelling performance from Cate Blanchett. Absolute must see for lovers of character-driven disaster movies.