What if Bernie Madoff was a younger, better looking man who left behind a beautiful yet clueless wife to fend for herself? That’s the basic premise of Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine. In this case the wife, Jasmine French, late of Park Avenue, is brilliantly played by Cate Blanchett who brings an amazing range of emotional states to the role as Jasmine throws herself on the mercy of her working class sister in San Francisco. She’s lost everything, but can’t seem to grasp the situation she is in or give up the lifestyle and pretense she’s grown so accustomed to, because it is who she is. A modern day Blanche DuBois (a role Blanchett played to stellar reviews off-Broadway not so long ago), Jasmine is ill-equipped for the life she’s been suddenly thrust into and has already begun to lose her grip on reality.
Jasmine’s fall from grace is told in flashbacks as she attempts to adjust to life in her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) cramped apartment and struggles to find a way forward with her ego intact. Having met her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) during her college years, she never finished her anthropology degree and has no real marketable skills, but she can’t imagine herself taking a menial job, heaven forbid. In her former life she shuttled between her gargantuan Manhattan apartment, her massive beach house, and the mansion in the country, with jaunts to St. Tropez and other exotic locales. She lunched. She threw parties. She did her charity work. And she never wanted for anything. And suddenly, the best she can do is a job as the receptionist for a dentist! The contrast between the Jasmine of New York — alive, glowing, in her element — and the Jasmine behind the check-in desk — caged, popping Xanax, and utterly baffled about her predicament — makes this character one of Woody Allen’s best, and Cate Blanchett will no doubt be a front-runner for an Oscar for this role. When she meets a widowed diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard), a man of the right social status, she thinks she’s found a way back to her former life, but of course, it is not that easy to leave her [husband’s] past behind.
And as great as Blanchett is, the rest of the cast is also pretty amazing. Alec Baldwin is the perfect Ponzi-scheming conman. Sally Hawkins (Happy-Go-Lucky) as the sweet sister is the perfect complement to Jasmine, playing Ginger with a heartbreaking earnestness. And surprisingly, Andrew Dice Clay turns in a great performance as Ginger’s (ex)husband, who lost his fortune to Hal. It is a great ensemble and a wonderful script, and I won’t be surprised when it is nominated for a lot of the big awards either. Blue Jasmine is one of Woody Allen’s best in years.