Woody Allen’s latest film Blue Jasmine – heralded as another return to form for the director – is dominated by the thrilling performance of our luminous cover star, Cate Blanchett. She plays a woman in the throes of a nervous breakdown, calling to mind Blanche DuBois and Ruth Madoff to variously comic and tragic effect. Talk of a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Blanchett has been gathering force ever since the film first screened in the summer, and there’s no denying that Allen can write a complex female character like few others in Hollywood (no less than 10 women have garnered Oscar nominations for performances in his films.) Inspired by Blanchett’s own powerhouse performance, as well as that of her co-star Sally Hawkins, AnOther nominates some of its favourite female characters from Allen’s nearly fifty films.
Diane Keaton in Annie Hall (1977)
Diane Keaton won a well-deserved Oscar for her turn as the ditsy, pot-smoking Annie, famous for her wide-leg trousers and tie combos, using “la-di-da” as a conversational placeholder and breezily declaring Allen's character "a real Jew". Of his one-time girlfriend Keaton, Allen once said “I wrote Annie Hall for her, and then after that I could almost only write for women characters. They were cardboard figures before her, and I made no effort to change it, but after I met Keaton I could write women, and only write women, that was all that interested me.”
"After I met Keaton I could write women, and only write women, that was all that interested me” — Woody Allen
Meryl Streep in Manhattan (1979)
Though Diane Keaton and Mariel Hemingway are the leading ladies in Allen’s Gershwin-scored paean to New York, Meryl Streep narrowly steals the show with her brief appearance as Allen’s arch and dispassionate ex-wife, who has left him for a woman and is writing a tell-all book about their marriage.
Judy Davis in Husbands and Wives (1992)
Released amid the storm of Allen’s affair with Soon Yi Previn coming to light, Husbands and Wives is a searing and nuanced look at two couples in free-fall, and the institution of marriage in general. Mia Farrow plays the unsettled wife of Woody Allen’s hapless mid-lifer, but it is Judy Davis as the explosive, anxiety-ridden woman scorned who burns up the screen, and suggests a forerunner for the unhinged Jasmine.
Mira Sorvino in Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
Sorvino won a best supporting actress Oscar for her tart-with-a-heart in this frothy comedy about a man trying to find the mother of his adopted child. Playing a prostitute and sometime porn actress, Sorvino charms as Linda, with her high-pitched voice and lousy if spirited attempts at stage acting.
Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Yet another Oscar was chalked up with Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Penelope Cruz winning the best supporting actress award for her volatile, passionate artist who paints with abandon and packs a firearm. She is at her funniest when screaming ad-libbed Spanish at co-star Javier Bardem.
Blue Jasmine is out today.
Text by Laura Allsop