The latest film from writer-director Woody Allen is a good one. It’s not up there with his best, far from it, but it’s also nowhere near any of his worst. The biggest thing going against it is the fact that the central character is so self-centred and hard to like, but the fact that Allen makes the movie an ultimately enjoyable one is testament to his skill as a movie-maker.
Cate Blanchett is Jasmine, even if that wasn’t the name given to her at birth. She was once happily married to a very rich man (Alec Baldwin), blithely unaware of what lengths he went to in order to keep making his fortune, but now has nothing. Her husband was arrested, the assets were seized and she is now about to spend some time living with the sister (Sally Hawkins) that she would previously have gone out of her way to avoid. Her sister has a fiance (Bobby Cannavale) that Jasmine doesn’t think is good enough for her, but it soon becomes apparent that Jasmine’s opinions may not be worth listening to.
Like many Woody Allen movies (certainly his more serious fare, anyway), this uses every character and line of dialogue to explore one or two key ideas that seem to have taken hold of the man’s imagination. This time around it’s all about people who feign ignorance of bad deeds being as bad as those who commit them, and then we have a number of moments showing the difference between good class and good character. It may be more timely than most Allen movies, with a plot driven by the actions of people who would appear to be on at least the edges of “the 1%”, but that’s almost inconsequential as the New York auteur starts to delve deeper and deeper into the hearts of each character.
Blanchett is very good in her role, although it’s an act full of tics and twitches that makes it all the easier to perform. Sally Hawkins is much better as the sister that is unfairly looked down upon. Cannavale is wonderful, a seemingly tough guy with a soft heart, Andrew Dice Clay impresses with a small, but vital, role, and the supporting turns from the likes of Baldwin, Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard are all pretty great.
It’s ultimately quite insubstantial, diverting stuff, but that’s okay when the performances are all as good as the ones that we get here. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t give you more food for thought. One or two twists aside, this is a film that pretty much ends by dropping off characters and viewers right back at where it began.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: WOODY ALLEN
STARS: CATE BLANCHETT, SALLY HAWKINS, ALEC BALDWIN, ANDREW DICE CLAY, BOBBY CANNAVALE, PETER SARSGAARD, LOUIS C.K.
RUNTIME: 98 MINS APPROX