Vodka martini with a dash of bitters… Blanchett’s tour de force as brittle, flawed Jasmine is a tragicomic delight
Ah, the Woody Allen comeback: we get a new one every year. He’s back on form, the crowds cry. It’s his best since Hannah and her Sisters, critics declaim. It invariably isn’t. But there’s always the hope that this time, maybe, it’ll be different.
And this time it is. Woody has finally abandoned his InterRailing holiday and rose-tinted view of Europe and returned to the US. But instead of the usual grey Manhattan, we meet Jasmine as she’s flying over to golden San Francisco.
Cate Blanchett, a first-time collaborator for Allen, plays Jasmine, who is recovering from the arrest and suicide of her Bernie Madoff-like property tycoon husband Hal (Alec Baldwin in an inspired bit of casting). Jasmine has to join her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in her New Age flat, alongside Ginger’s muscular salt-of-the-earth boyfriend Chili wearing Brando-esque wife beaters.
It’s a bravura performance from Blanchett, veering effortlessly from deliciously awful Upper East Side snob to distraught grieving widow. She’s got the mannerisms and voice modulations, but she’s also got the gravitas. As her carefully-constructed delusions come crashing down around her, we simultaneously laugh at her and pity her.
There are some problems: Woody Allen evidently hasn’t met a working class person since 1975, and the portrayal of mental illness as comedy is not unproblematic. But the one-liners (“Who do I have to sleep with around here to get a Stoli martini with a twist of lemon?”) and Blanchett’s tragicomic turn make this one of Allen’s finest in a long time.