BLUE JASMINE directed by Woody Allen (USA, 2012)

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) hits rock bottom.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) hits rock bottom.

In 1980’s Stardust Memories, the autobiographical character Woody Allen played complained “I don’t feel funny. I look around the world and all I see is human suffering”.

Despite this, he has mainly continued to make comedies which, of late, have been little more than sentimental travelogues like Midnight In Paris and To Rome His Love.

In other words, he seems to have become resigned to the idea that people go to the movies to escape the stresses and suffering of the real world.

In the cinema in London where I saw Blue Jasmine the pre-publicity included a montage of clips with the tag-line “leave reality at home”. This invitation to enjoy the guilt-free two hours of pure escapism seemed a little at odds with the censor’s straight-faced warning of “mild references to sex and suicide”.

Blue Jasmine is not a rebuttal of Allen’s ‘earlier funny films’, nor is it as good as his brilliant works from 70s and 80s. What it does do is remind us that he is a serious filmmaker and not one who always wants simply to pander to popular taste.

Above all, this is a marvellous character study of one woman’s downfall with a riveting performance by Cate Blanchett. Her life falls apart when her wealthy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is revealed to be a serial philanderer and a crook. Practically overnight she shifts from having it all (at least materially) to being stoney broke.

Her story is told as a conventional cinematic narrative, with flashbacks, but so dominant is the voice of this one character  that I could easily imagine it working as a theatrical monologue.

There’s nothing wrong with the supporting actors – Sally Hawkins is particularly good as Jasmine’s sister Ginger – but they seem incidental to the main story.

The movie works because it dares to follow Jasmine’s demise to its logical conclusion without resorting to a soapy feel good ending. For the audience, reality is staring us in the face rather than being left behind at home.