Director: Woody Allen
Studio: Gravier Productions
Stars: Peter Sarsgaard, Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin
Woody Allen tiptoes so far into Tennessee Williams territory with Blue Jasmine that it’s a very good thing he convinced the extraordinary Cate Blanchett to go along with him. Blanchett, who made a searing and memorable Blanche Dubois four years ago in the Liv Ullmann-directed revival of Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, here does variations on similar themes playing Allen’s painfully deluded, hoity-toity, volatile, falling down heroine.
Blanchett commands every scene Allen gives her as Jasmine, whose shifty, high-powered, shallow Upper East Side financier husband (Alec Baldwin) dumps her for a younger woman, then gets caught in a financial scandal and leaves the already volatile Jasmine broke—and broken. Depending on Xanax and the kindness of near strangers, she treks across the country to San Francisco to crash at the apartment of her warmhearted, blue-collar sister (Sally Hawkins), who has lived in the shadow of her elegant, beautiful sister.
Jasmine clashes with her sister’s earthy galoot mechanic boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) and sweeps herself up in a fantasy-fueled romance with a diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard) she believes will help her regain her dignity and sanity, as well as pave her way back into the lap of luxury. The seriocomic Blue Jasmine—the title of which simultaneously evokes the heroine’s mood, that ’50s pop tune “Blue Gardenia” and Tennessee Williams’ famed “blue roses” speech in The Glass Menagerie—is at least very good late-period Allen. Hawkins, Cannavale and Sarsgaard all grab their moments, as do Michael Stuhlbarg as Blanchett’s amorous dentist temp boss and Louis C.K. as a potential new boyfriend for Hawkins.
What really sticks with you, though, is the great Blanchett’s funny, heartbreaking, motor-mouthed, all-in performance. A movie star who can really act, she astounds.