“It’s a bit of a mixed bag,” says Sharon, one of the minor characters in Woody Allen’s latest film Blue Jasmine as she describes the guests at a party.
While it may have appeared to be an unremarkable comment, I thought it was an apt description of the disparate people who are thrown together by circumstance. In the opening scenes we meet the beautiful, glamorous but intensely troubled Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett who spends the entire flight from New York to San Francisco talking non-stop to a fellow passenger. Carrying her Louis Vuitton luggage, she turns up at her adopted sister’s flat after discovering her rich husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was an adulterous crook.
Jasmine, whose real name is Jeanette, has followed a very different path from her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) who works in a grocery store, has two children and a string of rough-and-ready but generally kind-hearted boyfriends. Using a series of flashbacks, we see that Jasmine always looked down on her sister, while seemingly turning a blind eye to her husband’s dodgy deals in return for the lavish lifestyle she believes she deserves. Clutching a bottle of pills and bearing an uncanny resemblance to the protagonist in Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, Blanchett’s depiction of Jasmine’s descent into depression and alcoholism is suitably gut-wrenching.
Like its characters, the film is not always perfect; it trundles along in places and it was difficult to muster up much sympathy for Jasmine, who continues to view Ginger with disdain despite her generosity and sweet nature. At the same time, there are some genuinely touching moments and in one scene when Jasmine is babysitting Ginger’s two boys we see a much more ‘human’ side to her as she speaks candidly for the first time about her break-down and the pills she has to take.
Blue Jasmine continues at Broadway Cinema this week.