Woody Allen’s latest film centers on Jasmine, a divorced socialite who clings to the past as much as she clings to her Chanel boulcé jacket. Cate Blanchett’s treatment of this role is exquisite; a less skilled actor would have taken Jasmine into clichéd nervous-breakdown-woman territory. Blanchett balances the mentally unstable woman’s affectations with sincere humanity, regardless of how thin the role could have been delivered. Her performance could be compared against Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence, Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, or Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married, in her sincere portrayal of mental illness.
The casting of the film is uneven, but to be expected from Allen. He always starts with black screen titles and always casts popular Hollywood talents. It was really fantastic to see Louis C.K. on the big screen, but honestly any actor could have played that role. C.K. did a fine job, it simply felt as if Allen wanted to put in the top comic for fun and nothing more. The same could be said of the inclusion of Max Casella(Benny from The Sopranos), Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent, Boardwalk Empire) and Andrew Dice Clay. The afore-mentioned actors perform well with their material; it feels as though they were only included due to Allen’s whims.
The story structure of past and present intertwining mirror Jasmine’s inability to move forward from her past. Her repetition of the same tales, her insistence on lavish creature comforts(first class airline tickets while broke) and her designer clothes shield her from the gritty reality of her present. The character living in the present is Ginger(Sally Hawkins), Jasmine’s down-to-earth sister who begrudgingly takes her in after hard times arrive. The two woman have love affairs but neither are fleshed out enough to elicit genuine emotion. The use of Andrew Dice Clay as the deus ex machina feels cheap; it leads to an easily wrapped up ending that is not wholly fair to certain characters. Regardless of the uneven tone of this film it is a welcome sight to see Clay still smoke his cigarette with flair and to witness one of Cate Blancett’s greatest performances.