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Monday 7 October 2013

Blue Jasmine, Film written and directed by Woody Allen, 8* out of 10

Having lost all her money and Manhattan-socialite lifestyle, after her super-rich husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) has been arrested as a fraudster, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has had a nervous breakdown and is seeking recovery and shelter with her sister Ginger in San Francisco. Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is as different from her sister as can be: she has been living in modest circumstances with her two young boys from her first marriage to a building contractor with her working-class boyfriend Chilli (Bobby Cannavale). Having climbed to social and financial heights as Hal’s wife, Jasmine had always tried to avoid any social dealings with her working-class sister’s family, whom she considered an embarrassment.

Broke and psychologically destabilised by what has happened to her, Jasmine tries to find a surer footing from which she can climb back on the social ladder. But what’s the best plant for her? Picking up her studies from way back, training to become an interior designer or looking for a suitably powerful man who is looking for a wife capable of carrying out the appropriate social duties to support his professional ambitions? But as Jasmine, supported by Prozac, Lithium and dry Martinis tries to focus on the future, thoughts of her past continue to intrude and haunt her: how much did she know or at least suspect about her husbands fraudulent dealings? How did Ginger’s ex-husband loose the money he had planned to use to set up his own business?

Woody Allen’s topical drama tells the story of Jasmine’s downfall its effect on her and the attempt she makes to get back to lofty financial and social position.  He shows that he can write and direct a powerful drama, with finely drawn characters who ever so often confound our expectations just a little. Jasmine and Ginger, in particular are two contrasting and memorable women’s roles. Jasmine acts outwardly strong and assured but is fundamentally fragile, running on empty.  Ginger appears outwardly less secure than Jasmine and quite vulnerable, particularly after the arrival of her formerly so successful sister; but she can fall back on inner strength, resilience and judgement. Within an excellent ensemble cast, Cate Blanchett’s outstanding portrayal of Jasmine is matched by Sally Hawkins’ Ginger. With Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen, now in his seventies, shows that his creative abilities and his skills as a story teller are undiminished.

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