Let's cut to the chase, in this writer's opinion Blue Jasmine is one of Woody Allen’s darkest and best films yet. A post financial meltdown morality tale set in San Francisco, it tells the story of two adopted sisters – the exquisitely beautiful and vacuous Jasmine, (nee Jeanette), played to perfection by Cate Blanchett and good-hearted, working-class Ginger, charmingly acted by Sally Hawkins.
From a different gene-pool, rather like Allen’s own adopted children, the sisters couldn't be more different. Everything about Jasmine is surface, glitzy and fake, in opposition to scruffy Ginger, who is struggling to bring up her two sons while stacking supermarket shelves – thereby representing the salt-of-the-earth, working-class America.
Jasmine attempts to be nice, but snobbery keeps breaking through. Her voice, lamenting and lecturing, has the timbre of wealth: here, it fills the small space, thoughtlessly grating on other people’s sensibilities. She pleads poverty, but has flown first class, since spending remains her chosen, indeed only, means of self-expression.
The bones of her story (pieced together from the present narrative and in flashback) are that she and Ginger were adopted separately by the same parents, but it was Jeanette/Jasmine who seemed fated to go glamorous places. The elegant blonde was plucked from college before graduation by a wealthy, charismatic businessman, Hal (Alec Baldwin), and groomed for the life of the very wealthy, stuffed with the business of self-maintenance and radiant public philanthropy.
Hal, a bluff, tanned Bernie Madoff-style character, built an empire on fraud: when it collapsed, Jasmine’s life and cash-flow crashed with it. She is now heavily dependent, as her spiritual forerunner Blanche DuBois was in A Streetcar Named Desire, on the tolerance of relatives and the kindness of strangers.
It’s difficult to take your eyes off Blanchett’s shimmering beauty and her charismatic performance will surely win the talented actress an Oscar nomination. The lyrical filming of San Francisco is visually stunning and romantic and wonderfully complements a backdrop of classical jazz.
Examining contemporary culture, morality and politics, this penetrating fable of a film deserves to become a classic. I’d unreservedly award it six stars out of five but then again I am a great fan of Woody Allen’s films, especially Annie Hall which explores his love affair with that other great American metropolis, New York.
An excellent supporting cast includes Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire's Gyp Rosetti) and Andrew Dice Clay.
Blue Jasmine is on general release and here's the trailer...