I saw Woody Allen's incredible Blue Jasmine today, which is anchored by an incredible performance by Cate Blanchett. It's hard for me to get over here being snubbed for Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love for some reason, and this is further confirmation that she is one of the most talented actresses of her generation. She's truly amazing and heart-wrenching to watch.
The story concerns the downfall of a woman married to a Bernie Madoff-like character, with undertones of Streetcar Named Desire - genteel woman goes to live with her sister, whose men she considers beneath her, in a down on her luck neighborhood, etc. There are many similarities in spirit, not the least of which is Jasmine's contempt at her sister's milieu, and the belief that she will be saved by a rich man.
The performances are great, from some of my favorites - Sally Hawkins, Louis CK, Bobby Canavale, Alec Baldwin. I can't seem to shake the movie. It's quite upsetting, but to speak more about it would be to ruin some of it, which is not fair. It's not a spoiler to say she is blind, unable to see herself. I'd say it's a tragedy, but she does not see what has happened until the end. It's disturbing.
This movie is somewhat cynical, too. Sometimes in serious mode, Allen's worldview can come across as cynical and harsh. I'm sure it is. In the comedies, it tends to be lighter, and through the lightness he is able to explore themes that become heavy-handed in his more serious films. He's dealing with the same questions in both, but in the serious films the characters can border on the distasteful. I'm still not sure if Allen is judging Hawkin's character of Jasmine's lower class sister and her men, but there is a slight sense of the pretension that Jasmine has in his films. He is, after all, an Upper East Sider. Though he may poke fun at that world, it still seemingly is the one in which he is most comfortable. There's more on that, but I think it's up to the individual. It's not an easy film. It's a real drama.
That said, it's mostly quibbling. I read that Allen did not see Blanchett's portrayal of Blanch in Streetcar (which was supposedly incredible), but I feel like he has given us enough of an analog to guess at how brilliant that performance was. I really hope this film is remembered at Oscar time, especially Cate Blanchett. Wow.