When her marriage falls apart, due to some dodgy financial dealing by her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) finds herself staying with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Fransisco. Ginger, and San Fransisco, may not be the life that Jasmine is accustomed to, but then Jasmine is not quite the woman she used to be.
It has been a while since Woody Allen brought us a tragedy, and make no mistake, Blue Jasmine is nothing short of tragic. Cate Blanchett shines as a woman whose life was of her own making and the downfall of her life is something that she is struggling to come to terms with. Blanchett is fragile and tightly wound throughout the film, but this is not to say that she immediately gets the audience on Jasmine’s side. Far from it; there are times when Jasmine is the most frustrating and selfish woman seen on screen in a long time, but this does not mean that her existence is any less tragic.
The supporting cast do a marvellous job of backing Blanchett, but this is definitely Jasmine’s show. Sally Hawkins as Ginger throws up a mirror to her sister, and constantly reminds her of the life she fled. Louis C.K. does not get enough screen time, but is warm and charming. Bobby Cannavale plays the thug with a heart of gold who consistently challenges Jasmine. Peter Sarsgaard does a beautiful job as Jasmine’s ‘saviour’ who is not as interested in her delusions as she is.
Woody Allen has poured all of his neuroses and tragedy into Jasmine, and made her a memorable but frustrating character. There are also touches of Blanche DuBois about Jasmine, and the film as a whole, with the character’s delicate mental disposition and flair for melodrama invoking Tennessee Williams’ tragic work. Allen has captured a fragile world and a fragile character, who could very well be an every woman for our troubled economic times. The trouble with the film is that without Blanchett and her beautifully ugly performance, there is very little there. This is Jasmine’s world and, while Allen has captured it wonderfully, the supporting cast seem to be inserted into the film to give Jasmine someone to talk to, other than herself.
Blue Jasmine is a frustrating but beautifully wrought tragedy that will resonate with audiences, no matter their financial or economic situation. Allen has re-tasked A Streetcar Named Desire to wonderful effect and Blanchett reminds us that there is much more to her than her ethereal beauty, which is notably absent here. The supporting cast do so with aplomb, although a slightly more rounded look at the cast could have provided a stronger film.