Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has suffered some personal problems recently, and what's worse is that they have been very public. Her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), who kept her in a luxury lifestyle, was convicted of major business fraud and imprisoned, where he took his own life, leaving his wife with a load of debts and no means of support. Therefore she has been forced to move back to San Francisco and stay with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) with whom she has had a bitter relationship, since Ginger was the one without money and Jasmine was the opposite, and when she actually won on the lottery and asked Hal to manage her takings, he lost the lot. But they must let bygones be bygones...
Woody Allen went Tennessee Williams with Blue Jasmine, and just as Vivien Leigh had won for A Streetcar Named Desire over sixty years before, Cate Blanchett secured the Best Leading Actress Oscar for her role in this, though she was not simply recreating the past performance, updating it to a modern milieu in a powerhouse of her character's self-denial and poor judgement, not to mention an almost complete lack of ability to look after herself to any meaningful degree. Allen had an interesting method of assembling the plot in that we flitted from the present day where Jasmine is struggling with her new lifestyle back to the time when it all seemed to be rosy for her, and she was happily married.
Part of the lesson here is that you may think you're settled, but you never know when you will be hit with something that will knock you off your feet, and you may think you're prepared for every eventuality but fate has a habit of catching you out. It happens to everyone, so you would think we'd be ready by this time yet no matter how capable you are life has a tendency to leave you as helpless as Jasmine here. That's what is so unsettling about her and Blanchett put that across with fragile, blustering aplomb: should you recognise anything of yourself in her when you had a crisis then striking a very raw nerve would be uppermost in Allen's mind when he was scripting. For that reason, though it was an easy film to admire, was it really enjoyable to any extent?
Certainly you could appreciate the craftmanship that had gone into the film, but with its director at his most pessimistic that meant things grew very bleak indeed as the storyline began to resemble the effect of watchinng a motorway pile-up in slow motion: you are in the privileged position of seeing the folly of the characters' actions and where they are headed into disaster with the combination of their flaws, yet powerless to do anything about it except sit and cringe. Blanchett may have received most of the plaudits, but it was an excellent cast all round, with Hawkins matching her in their Country Mouse/Town Mouse relationship, trying not to resent Jasmine in the way her husband does (Andrew Dice Clay, unexpectedly adept at drama, though he is still playing an angry man).
There's a sense of the film letting us see too much, and the feeling of invading the privacy of a very troubled woman is a large part of what makes it effective and hard to take. This is a very unforgiving experience if you have any sympathy for any of the characters, which is understandable when in spite of their problems, many brought on themselves, you can see where they are going wrong which is able to bring out the latent agony aunt in many a viewer. The narrative actually takes in quite a bit more time than you'd anticipate, including relationships forming and breaking up, with an interesting aspect for Allen in that the recent financial worries of the world had him less on the side of the well off and well to do, and more on the side of the victims of their crimes, meaning this was a rare Allen effort where his compassion for the working class was more palpable than that of his usual territory. Nevertheless, that we are all in this together, in that we can just as easily drag each other down as build each other up, maybe more so, was an uneasy conclusion.
American writer/director/actor and one of the most distinctive talents in American film-making over the last three decades. Allen's successful early career as a stand-up comedian led him to start his directing life with a series of madcap, scattershot comedies that included Bananas, Sleeper and Love and Death. 1975's Oscar-winning Annie Hall was his first attempt to weave drama and comedy together, while 1979's Manhattan is considered by many critics to be Allen's masterpiece.
The 90s saw Allen keep up his one-film-a-year work-rate, the most notable being the fraught Husbands and Wives, gangster period piece Bullets Over Broadway, the savagely funny Deconstructing Harry and the under-rated Sweet and Lowdown. After a run of slight, average comedies, Allen returned to more ambitious territory with the split-story Melinda and Melinda, the dark London-set drama Match Point, romantic drama Vicky Cristina Barcelona, one of many of his films which won acting Oscars, and the unexpected late-on hits Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine. In any case, he remains an intelligent, always entertaining film-maker with an amazing back catalogue.