Last July I saw Cate Blanchett at the movies. That day she was in the audience with her kids and I was there with mine. We approached the cinema at the same time and had to wait a few minutes – just inches from each other – until the doors were opened. And though I tried to be cool, I just couldn’t stop staring – and I wasn’t the only one. You see even on a day off as she tried to blend in with her kids, star struck patrons approached to remind her ‘Wow! You’re Cate Blanchett!’ Just in case she had forgotten. Because even dressed down in a suburban shopping centre Cate Blanchett was not like all the other parents. She had a natural elegance and striking stature that made her stand out from the crowd. Call it a presence, star quality or X factor, from what I could see Cate Blanchett has plenty of it.
Today I saw Cate Blanchett at the movies, but this time she was onscreen starring in Woody Allen’s latest release Blue Jasmine. Blanchett plays Jasmine Francis, a stylish New York socialite who is forced to move in with her sister in San Francisco when her life of wealth and privilege suddenly comes crashing down.
We piece together Jasmine’s story, gaining insight into who she has become and why through flashbacks of her former life. Seemly and unseemly behaviour are intertwined with a series of events that are very believable in a post-GFC world. Jasmine is a very practised persona, who really does herself no favours as a selectively naïve wife choosing not to acknowledge all the evidence of deceit as it piles up around her. Yet, even when she is broken and everything seems lost including her sanity, Jasmine maintains a certain grace and mystique that whether genetic or hard-earned, are certainly palpable and compelling both to the audience and many of the characters.
Blue Jasmine is confronting and captivating. It is less whimsical than many of Woody Allen’s films. There is still a good dose of neuroses, but in this story the reasons for their existence are more clearly defined.
Blanchett’s performance and Allen’s screenplay are perfectly matched. I have no doubt that Cate Blanchett did Woody Allen very proud in Blue Jasmine and that she should enjoy all the accolades that I’m sure will come her way for this exceptional performance. There is also little doubt that Allen knew exactly what he was doing in casting Blanchett for this role. Because even in a role that is not always beautiful to watch, Cate Blanchett is not like all the other actresses. She is reliably strong, intelligent and refined which makes her stand out from the rest.
Even though my real life interaction with Cate Blanchett was very short and distant, I suspect she may empathise with her character Jasmine Francis. Because just like enormous wealth, enormous fame must sometimes come at a cost and some days things are just too good to be true.
Have you seen Blue Jasmine? What was your reaction? What is your favourite Woody Allen film?