I say it every year. I really wish that Woody Allen would let someone else direct. I know he’s a control freak and I know he believes that only he knows how he wants his imagination to unfold on screen, but really, the man needs a little bit of collaboration in his life. It may be too late and by now he may be passed the point where he could listen to a contradictory opinion, even if he wanted to.
Overall control is great when it works, especially for someone like Allen. When Vicky Cristina Barcelona was released, I was absolutely delighted. Finally, a piece of work from the man that dared to live up to his history. Not since Crimes & Misdemeanours had I enjoyed an Allen movie more.
And, if I’m honest, I haven’t enjoyed an Allen movie as much since VCB and that includes this admittedly solid effort. Blue Jasmine feels like a much more approachable project for the uninitiated. For the Allen newcomer, it’s a gentle guiding hand on the elbow, a less formidable introduction into the brain of an artistic enigma.
There is less navel-gazing, less philosophical pedestrianism that his work has always really been above. If only his audience would let him rise. It’s still considered and often achingly familiar to millions, as he literally (not physically) wrestles with those same problems that we all deal with, airing his conversational psychotherapy to a keen, eager and adoring viewer. His couch is his pen and his audience his shirink, as it has always been, but he seems less bogged down these days with his own usual brand of a self-effacing and humbling dichotomy of intellect and emotion, in turn approaching his favourite topic of love and relationships from an entirely different angle.
Jasmine is a masterly character and played to what seems like perfection by the incredibly powerful and versatile Cate Blanchett. Allen’s vision of a New York socialite forced to shack up with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) after the incarceration and subsequent demise of her husband is so full of potential, it will make Allen fans everywhere absolutely crave getting their fingers into her superficially intoxicating character. The opportunity to embellish a figure so ripe and deceptively rounded must have been impossible for a superb talent like Blanchett to refuse.
The supporting cast of Alec Baldwin and Sally Hawkins most notably are, as usual, odd but effective choices for Allen to make use of. The philandering husband and the past-wronged sibling are excellent foils for Jasmine to bounce haphazardly off in all manner of paranoid and delusional directions.
In summary, a good film and witty script made better still by the performances of a more than able cast, with Jasmine herself the stand out, where Blanchett is more than capable of carrying the film on her own. Some lovely performances throughout and a slow-burn narrative told just salaciously enough to keep the appetite whet. Good fun, with a couple of laughs to boot, but most of all, great story-telling by writer and players.