Annie get your coat: Woody’s new girl is Oscar-bound
Wrapping up his cruise around continental Europe with last year’s syrupy mess To Rome With Love, Woody Allen heads back Stateside to tackle Wall Street yuppies, the financial crisis and all its maddening aftermath with Blue Jasmine. A psychiatrist’s wet dream, it’s also the finest film the New York virtuoso has delivered in 20 years. Perhaps ever.
When her big-shot business tycoon husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is caught swindling money and thrown in the slammer, Park Avenue pearl Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) starts to lose her cool. Gathering up the exorbitant remnants of her shattered, haute bourgeoisie existence, she flees to San Francisco to try and start life anew, moving in with her adopted, grocery store clerk sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Famous as a jokester, this new, utterly brilliant film sees Allen covering new ground as he pays homage to the master of destructive melodramas, Tennessee Williams. A Streetcar Named Desire for the 21st century, Allen attacks blue vs white-collar hubris with acerbic wit and piquancy.
Blanchett delivers a transformative, career-defining performance in the title role. From flashbacks detailing her socialite life of yesteryear, to her crazed rambling to herself in the street, she commands the screen with a brutal, yet entrancing melancholy. Even at her most brittle, the Australian Oscar winner can never lose her regal, abstruse elegance – that je ne sais quoi quality that makes Jasmine’s fall from grace simultaneously pitiable, loathsome and enigmatic.
But the good performances don’t stop there. Hawkins brings realism to the picture as the magnanimous sister. As the yin to Jasmine’s maladjusted yang, her nuanced performance deftly surfaces the neurotic disillusions lying dormant beneath Ginger’s happy-go-lucky veneer. Most revelatory of all, Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale arrives on screen with effervescent ferocity as Ginger’s ‘grease monkey’ boyfriend Chili. A beer-swilling Stanley Kowalski type, he imbues the animalism of an uncouth labourer in a post-financial crisis with ripe resplendence.
Leaving you aghast by the film’s dark, mildly disappointing denouement, Allen has defied the odds with Blue Jasmine. In the twilight of his career, the restless 77-year-old has manifested a movie anti-heroine so adroit, spunky and vital that she will live on as one of cinema’s greatest creations. “Annie Who?” I hear you cry.
Blue Jasmine (7)
Dir: Woody Allen; US dramedy, 2013, 98 mins; Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis CK
Premiered August 8