Blue Jasmine is classic Woody Allen

Woody Allen’s newest, Blue Jasmine, doesn’t disappoint and delivers another neurotic protagonist.

Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine

If the past 50 years in film had to be summarized with one character description, it would be that of a neurotic, unsatisfied, depressed individual, but one still seeking happiness. The modern woman, in particular, has had her fair share of cinematic representations, from Holly Golightly and Annie Hall, to some more recent all-wanting anxiety-struck examples like Girls’ Hannah Horvath, or Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha.

It’s impossible to discuss neurotic protagonists without bringing up Woody Allen’s body of work, and while he has been celebrated as a city-centric director above all, he is also an acute character observer. His latest, Blue Jasmine, features what is arguably one of the most antagonistic heroines he’s ever written: a Park Avenue housewife whose ex-husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was involved in a Bernie Madoff-style financial scheme. In addition to engaging in adultery, causing her to lose every fur and diamond she ever owned, she also lost her sanity along with her worldly goods. Played by the superb Cate Blanchett, Jasmine French (a name as fake and impersonal as the character) is forced to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco, a “big come-down from what she is used to,” as Ginger’s tight-jeans boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) observes. Often caught talking to herself about how Hal swept her off her feet while “Blue Moon” played in the background, Jasmine is a character caught in her past, which she both misses and resents.

As with most of Allen’s movies, Blue Jasmine’s main force is its ensemble cast, and of course the dialogue. “For some reason my Xanax isn’t kicking in,” Jasmine says while Chili and Ginger are having a fight, and she is gulping yet another bottle of Stolichnaya Vodka. It’s reminiscent of the director’s late ‘80s, early ‘90s family melodramas with their privileged housewife protagonists, especially Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) and Alice (1990) — but remains original by giving us an unlikeable character whom we end up feeling sorry for.  The niche audience of Allen fans will not be disappointed. ■

Blue Jasmine is in theatres now

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