Woody Allen makes movies on a regular basis, usually on a tight budget with a stellar cast and apart from his devoted followers, not troubling box office return ratings too much.
His latest certainly follows the usual template apart from the final criteria, with $50m and rising worldwide, this clearly is a movie that even non Woody fans can enjoy.
Cate Blanchett is “Jasmine”, a wealthy New York socialite married to “Hal” (Alec Baldwin), a handy metaphor for everything wrong with financial titans making fortunes with other peoples money. The flip-side is losing their money when it all goes wrong and you get exposed as a common crook in a $3,000 suit.
“Jasmine” had it all, the apartment, foreign holidays, flash cars and jewellery and as obligatory, a husband running multiple affairs right under her nose. Whether knowingly or not “Jasmine” is in serious denial, not wanting to know where the money comes from, as long as it keeps flowing and turning a blind eye to Hal’s affairs as long as he is vaguely discreet.
When this fragile materialistic world comes crashing to the floor, “Jasmine” retreats in every sense to her estranged sisters cluttered, thoroughly blue collar based apartment in San Francisco. “Ginger” (Sally Hawkins) is a much more practical girl, very much living a real life, supporting herself and children with a job at the supermarket.
Ginger is not lucky in love and attracts “the wrong sort” according to “Jasmine”, someone not clearly well qualified to judge.
The film is really about a woman losing her mind incrementally, which justifies the closing scenes as perfectly plausible, explainable and answers perhaps the question of how someone arrives in that place.
Blanchett inhabits this role completely, you can believe her actions, reactions and motivations absolutely, seemingly not acting at all, she is simply superb and makes the film. Blanchett is helped by Sally Hawkins in a much lower key but equally important role, displaying her usual talent for playing down to earth characters you can root for.
Baldwin plays these parts as well anyone, just the right side of oily as he manages to finesse money out of those who can least afford it. Bobby Canavale makes a good job of making a stereotype seem lovable enough for the audience to understand why “Ginger” is prepared to accept him and her lot in life.
Notwithstanding the help from the cast, this is Blanchett’s film, whether popping Xanax pills like candy to make it through the day or declaring “it’s just what I do”, when her first class air travel cost is questioned.
There are flaws, arguably the role Peter Sarsgaard (Dwight) is pitched to the far right of believable, does he really need to be that politically connected as well. The corner stone building block removed in the latter part of the film, is rather random and so comprehensive, that it does stretch plausibility somewhat.
Notwithstanding those minor issues, this is a story about a woman living in a real but unknowingly false world. Moving from Mt Olympus to where the “little people” live, requires an adjustment that is potentially just too far for her fragile mind to traverse. Someone that ultimately needs more help than is on offer and starts to fall through the cracks, that in the modern word become more evident and arguably wider by the day.
An excellent character piece from Woody Allen, not usually a recommendation as such but in this case, well worth a viewing.