If you haven’t seen Bob Weide’s Woody Allen documentary, I heartily recommend it. Even if you’re not a fan of Allen’s films, it’s a fascinating if lengthy doc, and a reminder that this is a man who at his best, is nothing short of genius. Of course with an output of one film a year, some of them are going to be duds, and he’s had his fair share of those. Recently a bit more than his fair share, to be honest. And when you watch Weide’s film, there’s a poignant sense that maybe his best years are behind him.
But wait a minute. Just when it’s all gone a bit ‘move along, there’s nothing to see’, along comes Blue Jasmine. Whether making the documentary woke something in Allen that had been lying a bit dormant, whether heading back to the US to film inspired him, or whether he was just teasing us with the bad films safe in the knowledge he had a few corkers still in the bag… whatever, this is right up there with some of his best.
Blue Jasmine is essentially a character study of a woman trying to survive her own personal fallout from America’s financial meltdown, clinging on to her privileged life by her manicured fingertips. In the meantime, broke and in the throes of a nervous breakdown, she arrives in San Francisco to stay with her adopted sister Ginger, in her ‘homey’ apartment in San Francisco. Their relationship has been more than a bit strained since Jasmine’s husband Ponzied Ginger’s ex-husband’s $200k lottery winnings.
Cate Blanchett is being hotly tipped for some Oscar jollies for her shattering portrayal of Jasmine, and rightly so. It’s a superb performance, capturing the struggle to keep up appearances of someone who is addicted to drama, pills and alcohol, while keeping a lid on some serious mental health issues. It will give you a knot in your stomach for pretty much the entire film. But the entire cast are strong, from Sally Hawkins as the put upon but eternally good-natured Ginger, to Bobby Cannavale as her sweaty vested lover (frankly he can do no wrong in my eyes) and even Andrew Dice Clay surprises as Ginger’s hard done by ex husband. There’s also a great little cameo from Louis CK, though I would have liked to see more of him. There’s an electricity buzzing among the cast, it feels like they all realised this is Good Woody, and stepped up their game accordingly.
Word is clearly out on this one, there have been sellouts in screens across London and the packed audience I saw it with obviously loved it, though I heard a few less than favourable comments about the ending. But you know what – that’s life, sometimes there isn’t a perfect ending.