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My 12 for ’13: Blue Jasmine & The Power of a Lead Performance

This is my annual countdown of the 12 movies that really stuck with me this year. It only counts the movies released in Ireland in 2013, so quite a few of this year’s Oscar contenders aren’t eligible, though some of last year’s are.

This is number 12…

There are a lot of reasons to like Blue Jasmine. Woody Allen adapting Tennessee Williams for the Great Recession was always going to be worth a look. The film’s elegant jazz-style narrative style, one that’s free-form but still hits the key notes. The brilliant supporting cast that even hints at a possible rehabilitation for Andrew Dice Clay.

However, there’s one reason above all others to love Blue Jasmine: Cate Blanchett.


Cate Blanchett is a phenomenal actress. That much has been obvious for quite some time. She has been an actress to watch since she really broke out in the mid- to late-nineties. Blanchett is a performer who tends to elevate films that she headlines (like the two Elizabeth movies) and who is even reliable in thankless roles (such Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull or Robin Hood).

At the same time, it’s worth noting that Blanche DuBois – the obvious influence for Jasmine’s character here – is one of the most iconic roles on stage or screen. The role won actress Vivien Leigh an Oscar for her performance in the 1951 film adaptation. Leigh had previously played the role in a stage version of the play, and enjoyed a rocky relationship with the character. She famously boasted that Blanche “tipped [her] over into madness.”


Blanchett has played Blanche DuBois on stage, and one imagines that it was effective preparation for her work on Blue Jasmine. Jasmine is a faded Southern belle with delusions of sophistication and class. The film sees the character come crashing down to Earth as all her fantasies and her deceptions are stripped away by circumstance and fate. It’s a very raw role, requiring an incredible central performance.

And Blanchett nails it. The ensemble cast is absolutely fantastic. In particular, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannavale all breath life into their supporting characters. However, this is Blanchett’s show, and she delivers perfectly. Blue Jasmine hinges on Blanchett’s ability to convey all the layers and nuances of her character, the lies and self-delusions wrapped in half-convincing justifications and rationalisations.


There are points where Blanchett’s performance is uncomfortable to watch, where it feels like we’re cutting right to the bone of the character. It’s a bold and brilliant and challenging central performance, and it’s the best of many already good reasons to watch Blue Jasmine.

Our top twelve films of the year:

Honourable Mentions

12.) Blue Jasmine

11.) Lincoln

10.) Much Ado About Nothing

09.) Iron Man 3

08.) Philomena

07.) Only God Forgives

06.) Star Trek Into Darkness

05.) Stoker

04.) Gravity

03.) Rush

02.) Django Unchained

01.) Cloud Atlas

6 Responses

  1. I agree with more or less everything you say. And yet this one is no where near my Top 12. I don’t dislike it, mind you, and am not offended you have it rated so highly; I just think it lacks a central theme, a raison d’être.

  2. Blanchett is astounding. I don’t like the film either.

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