Written and directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C. K., Peter Sarsgaard
Run time: 98 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
When Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) arrives at her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins, of “Happy-Go-Lucky”) downscale San Francisco apartment, she’s lost almost everything—except her four Vuitton suitcase. Still, she’s managed to scrape up enough cash for a first-class plane ticket (who would travel any other way?).
Jasmine’s husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), a Bernie Madoff-like financier, has been caught for his criminal finagling, which has cost Jasmine her lavish lifestyle, and Ginger the modest bundle her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) won in the lottery. Still, Ginger, always the less favored of the two sisters, both adopted, generously provides Jasmine with room and board–to the dismay of Ginger’s current boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a hot-temptered but loving “grease monkey,” as Jasmine puts it. (Ginger herself is a supermarket checker.) Chili would like to be the one who moves in.
It’s hard to sympathize with Jasmine, who is so clueless that she relates her troubles to Ginger’s two pre-teen sons (“You must know about Prozac and Lithium?”) and regards any sort of mundane job beneath her dignity. Still, she eventually takes a job as receptionist for a dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg); but that’s over right after he makes a crude pass. Meanwhile, Jasmine studies computers, having decided to get an interior decorator’s licence online, and tries, with the help of pills and vodka martinis, to hold off another breakdown like the one she suffered after her husband’s arrest. When Jasmine and Ginger are invited to a fancy party, they each meet a new man–Ginger’s is Al (Louis C. K.), an audio engineer, and Jasmine’s is Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a diplomat who sees Jasmine as a suitable accessory for his ambition to be elected to Congress.
The San Francisco scenes are interspersed with flashbacks to Jasmine’s luxurious New York lifestyle–dinner parties, expensive jewelry, a Harvard education for her son, the beach house, the car and driver. Ginger and Augie’s five-day visit to New York is an embarrassment to Jasmine, who finally arranges to send them off to South Street Seaport in a chauffeured limousine.
Woody Allen has an acute feel for the subtleties of class. Jasmine is never dressed in anything but expensive beige dresses and heels; Ginger’s tank tops reveal two star tattoos on her back. Unaccountably, Chili and his San Francisco buddies all speak with New York accents. I guess Allen thinks all working-class guys towk that way. The film’s San Francisco is short on touristic shots (except for one stunning shot of the Golden Gate Bridge and some views of the bay from Dwight’s Marin County spread); rather, it’s the gritty Mission District that represents the city.
“Blue Jasmine” has many hilarious Allenesque scenes, many of which are also painful: Chili trying to fix Jasmine up with one of his lowbrow friends; Jasmine’s dentist boss throwing himself at her; Jasmine’s lame attempts to connect with Ginger’s kids.
But essentially it’s a dark film, in which rage and frustration are what money buys instead of happiness; and failure, more often than not, is what meets a person’s attempts to move up in the murky corridors of romance.