“Blue Jasmine” Casting Review

**MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS**

Blue Jasmine is a Woody Allen film through and through. The characters are quirky and eccentric yet still grounded and real. The film definitely has an “indie” feel to it, and is supported by both recognizable and not-so-recognizable actors. Regardless of notoriety, all the major players in this story are seasoned pros in their craft, and each offer their own unique perspectives to their roles, perspectives that are expertly drawn out by Allen’s direction.

The film’s premise is simple, yet colored with deeper meanings. The story revolves around “Jasmine”, a wealthy and disturbed New York socialite who, after hitting rock-bottom, moves in with her sister in San Francisco. Cate Blanchett plays the title role, and boy does she play her–creating a character so flawed and complex that just watching her performance on screen is an acting master class in and of itself. Having a master thespian like Blanchett play the role of Jasmine is crucial since the entire film centers on her character, and her psychosis alone is the driving force for the entire narrative.

Like most Woody Allen characters, Blanchett’s Jasmine is profoundly complicated. On the outside, she’s an uptight socialite accustomed to the good life, which typically entails being cared for by a wealthy and successful gentleman. However, all mental stability goes out the window when her husband “Hal” gets arrested for illegal business practices and then commits suicide while in prison. Not surprisingly, these events cause Jasmine’s world to come crashing down, which is what prompts her to move in with her sister “Ginger” in San Francisco until she gets back on her feet. The madness doesn’t end there, and regardless of the turmoil in Jasmine’s exterior life, the quality of her internal life is equally disturbed. During the whole ordeal with Hal’s arrest and death, Jasmine suffers a complete and utter nervous breakdown, which she never fully recovers from. Compounding the situation is then the fact that Jasmine, accustomed to the finer things in life, is unable to fully accept the state of her situation, and refuses to settle for anything less than what she is used to–a mentality that she projects upon the people around her, particularly her sister Ginger. The severity of Jasmine’s mental condition surfaces during heightened times of stress and upheaval, typically manifesting in the form of her becoming lost in her own world, ranting and talking to herself incessantly. Needless to say, Blanchett has her work cut out for her with this character, which is why she deserves much praise and critical attention for fully realizing and bringing to life the character of Jasmine, complete with all of her imperfections.

Although the amount of kudos Blanchett deserves cannot be stated enough, the actors portraying the characters affected by Jasmine’s psychosis are almost equally important. Jasmine’s husband-turned-ex is played by the incomparable Alec Baldwin whose career continues to build steam despite the recent ending of his show 30 Rock, a television series that saw the resurgence of his acting career. Although Baldwin is one of the more recognizable actors in Blue Jasmine, his character’s presence is quite understated, and mainly acts as an echo to Jasmine’s former life. Jasmine’s sister Ginger is played by veteran actress Sally Hawkins who gets to portray a character that is seemingly the complete opposite to Jasmine. Hawkins’ Ginger helps to act as a representation of the real world and the kind of life that Jasmine needs to learn how to live with.

There are then three men that are quite significant in Ginger’s life–“Augie”, “Chili”, and “Al”, played by Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, and Louis C.K. respectively. Augie is Ginger’s ex-husband whom she shares two kids with. Clay brings a real, blue-collar essence to his character while also showing subtle layers of pain and regret. Clay loved Ginger, but because of Jasmine and Hal (amongst other underlying reasons), they just did not work out as a couple. He’s a painful reminder of both Ginger and Jasmine’s past. Cannavale plays “Chili”, Ginger’s hot-headed boyfriend who wears his emotions on his sleeve. Although Chili is a very Cannavale-esque character (he’s played these kinds of roles many times), that’s certainly not a bad thing here since Cannavale always lights up the stage (or screen), and inserts his own brand of charm and machismo into all his performances. Yes, he can easily play the stereotypical Italian/New Jersey “type”, but underneath that you will find a consummate and talented performer who’s been enjoying immense success in both television and film. Finally, comedian Louis C.K. plays “Al”, a seemingly upstanding man Ginger has a brief fling with. Although hailing from the world of stand-up comedy, C.K. has been steadily establishing himself as a serious actor on both the big and small screens. His performances tend to always lean toward the real and natural (much akin to his FX series Louie), and that’s definitely the case once more in Blue Jasmine.

Blue Jasmine is a classic Woody Allen movie. The story is simple yet deceptively complex, and the characters are multi-faceted, off-the-wall crazy, yet somehow grounded and relatable. Once again, Blanchett puts in an amazing performance as the title character, and even though her role isn’t the most likeable in the film, Blanchett herself deserves much praise for creating a character as monstrously wonderful as Jasmine.

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Kyle