For many of us, Match Point signaled the return of Woody Allen’s prowess and prestige as a filmmaker. It also signaled the beginning of a wildly varied but continuous stream of output. He’s struck chords of brilliance with Cassandra’s Dream and Vicky Christina, and ventured into the diverting – if not forgettable – with Scoop and Whatever. Among them all Blue Jasmine is a forerunner for a late life masterpiece (Cassandra close in tow). Blanchette psychologically unravels as Jasmine (whose real name is Jeanette) in what is essentially an unmitigated panic attack, some aspect of which is sustained in every scene. She is moving in with her lower-middle class sister in San Francisco from her fabulous globetrotting life as a wealthy Manhattanite wife. Blanchette’s performance is perfection, and reflects her character’s own deluded but honed performance in life. And Blanchette is surrounded by great performances, each authentic. The truth of the film is also in Allen’s nuanced depiction of class differences, and the cross currents of ambition and downfall (which makes Blue Jasmine a fantastic companion piece to Cassandra’s Dream and a suitable entry into his thematic flow this past eight years. Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent) as Chili was a particular working class gem. And who doesn’t love a Louis C.K. cameo.
So much of the success of Blue Jasmine has to do with its reflexive qualities. The “flashback structure” is somehow made afresh, seeming more like a binary past-present narrative told with both parts in their respective chronologies. It fractures like Jasmine/Janette fractures, it moves with hindsight as Jasmine does. Her greatest skill is looking the other way, but when her entire identity has been based on a submission (giving up her education to be married) and a selective blindness as to the nature of her husband’s unfathomable wealth, what does she have left when the veil has been pulled and the floor falls out from underneath. That is Jasmine’s struggle. She also appears like a woman removed from her time, so unaware of “nowness” – such as computers – that it is as if she has been transplanted from the past. This goes great lengths toward the convincing nature of her inability to adapt to a different class of living. The nuclear fallout of her history, her husband’s (Alec Baldwin) unsavory practices, and her feverish desire for status affects the lives of those from whom she seeks help, and shreds her nerves as she self medicates.
Such a slice of life. Complicated, ugly, disappointing, beautiful, difficult, human, life.
Blue Jasmine is now playing at the Ritz.