Let’s start with what matters most, at least for this one. Acting. Wow. Cate Blanchett has to be an early candidate for Oscar gold. She made Jeanette/Jasmine, a self-absorbed and self-defeating woman, entirely sympathetic and almost likable, no small accomplishment, given that her character, who is very well drawn, has few endearing qualities. Blanchett did overtime, as it were, carrying a fairly directionless film and making it feel somehow compelling and intriguing. She is a star of all stars. Hers is the first performance I’ve seen that exceeds Olyesa Rulin’s in Family Weekend.
Sally Hawkins is almost Blanchett’s equal as Ginger. I would be surprised if Hawkins doesn’t generate some Oscar buzz as well. Ginger is a woman who so desperately wants her sister to like her that she forgets what she wants, who she is, at least at times. Hawkins captures this character and makes her come to life.
Andrew Dice Clay makes a terrific turn as Augie, Ginger’s ex-husband.
The only actor for whom I didn’t much care is Peter Saarsgard. But I’m not certain that is Saarsgard’s fault. Allen’s script didn’t give Dwight much meat. He is trusting, gullible, impetuous and not much else. Even still, Saarsgard wasn’t able to take that little bit of context and turn it into anything memorable.
Each of the four principles (Jasmine, Baldwin’s Hal, Ginger and Chili (Bobby Cannavale)) are well written. All feel like real people. Jasmine and Ginger are pretty three-dimensional.
My problem with this one is much the same as my problem with 2012’s The Master. It was a tour de force of acting (even Saarsgard wasn’t anywhere near bad), but it lacked a “why,” a purpose, a raison d’etre. Which is to say it wasn’t really about much. I can see how it might have been a commentary on relationships between socio-economic classes, and I think that is for what it was going. But. I think it failed. It lacked the courage of its conviction and in the end didn’t say much about the interaction between people from different financial statuses. What little it did say was clouded by Jasmine, Ginger and Chili’s character flaws. It was less about how the social classes interact and more about how these three people interact. Which ultimately means the film wasn’t about much.