Friday, January 24, 2014
Best Actress 2013: Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett received her 6th Oscar nomination for playing Jeanette "Jasmine" Francis in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine.
Sometimes, there's a performance that seems to be all locked up for the Oscar before any of the awards season starts. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, Monique in Precious, and Christopher Plummer in Beginners come to mind. This year, it look's like it's Cate Blanchett, who has been able to stay buzzed about all season long, not to mention winning nearly all the critics awards, the Golden Globe, and the SAG for her performance in Blue Jasmine. She's made sure Sandra Bullock nor anyone else was able to put a wrench in her awards sweep and unless someone gets a late surge (Even if someone else wins the BAFTA), expect her to win on Oscar night.
Blue Jasmine was a film I did not like when I first saw it. I usually love Woody Allen, but some of his newer pieces have been disappointing and although I thought this was well made and well acted, I couldn't care about or like any of the character's in it. On a rewatch, my opinions changed. I don't think it's a masterpiece or one of Woody's best, but it is still an entertaining and interesting piece with excellent acting. It's about a woman named Jasmine (Blanchett) whose husband was arrested by the FBI for banking fraud (This scenario is based off real life Bernie Madoff)and killed himself in jail shortly after. Jasmine, left broke and desperate, goes to live with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco, who is a recently divorced mother of two who can't get her romantic life under control. The film follows Jasimine's attempts to try to create a new life for herself and also flashes back to Jasmine's days as a rich, wealthy woman.
Blanchett plays Jasmine with the perfect amount of snobishness and shallowness. Jasmine is a very selfish woman who puts on airs about her wealth constantly in order to feel good about herself again and Blanchett plays all of these moments very well. You can tell that she understands the character perfectly and knows exactly how to execute it. This might seem like a calculated performance, but Blanchett makes it all work.
Jasmine is a mess of a character though, and Blanchett wonderfully lets us see her darker, more disturbed side when Jasmine is close to breaking down. These scenes are deliciously funny to watch, yet also incredibly depressing as well as awkward, and Blanchett plays it all perfectly. She makes us feel for Jasmine by showing us glimpses of Jasmine's sadness and anger at her life turning out the way it has. Mind you, I never liked Jasmine, but one can't help but feel sorry for her and her terrible situation. Her flashback scenes are quite brilliantly played by her as well: We see Jasmine much more confident, in her element among the rich, glamourous world of New York and we see her selfishness in a different way then how we see it in the beginning. Blanchett also shows us that Jasmine loves her husband very much and has powerful anger at him for the way he is treating her. It's a side of Jasmine that is particularly interesting, given she is often not assertive an character in most of her scenes, and Blanchett handles this superbly. Her chemistry with Sally Hawkins is also terrific: We don't know much about their background, but the two actresses work extremely well together to create a strong relationship between them. I'm listening to some interviews with her right now, and she talks about working with the tone of Allen's films. Blanchett sets the tone and blends in with the tone of this film wonderfully.
It's a terrific, brilliantly executed performance, but I don't find her to be amazing here. As good as she is and as perfectly as she fits the part (Who else can you picture as Jasmine?), I didn't find that the role was particularly challenging for her, nor did it blow me away. Never the less, Blanchett gives a marvelous performance full of rich layers that is extremely effective and carries the film wonderfully. She gets