Jasmine's life is no longer what it used to be. Once married to a rich businessman in New York City who turns out to be a crook and a cheat, she moves to San Francisco to start a new life. This is the plot of Woody Allen's charming new film Blue Jasmine.
Jasmine, in an Oscar-worthy performance by Cate Blanchett, lived in a sumptious apartment on Park Avenue, had lots of clothes and jewellery, and seemed to have the perfect life. Her husband, Harold "Hal" Francis (a perfectly cast and suave Alec Baldwin), was a successful businessman. But it was all smoke and mirrors.
Not only was her husband having affairs behind her back, he was also swindling investors (friends and family included – a la Bernie Madoff), including Jasmine's sister and her husband. When he tells Jasmine he is leaving her for a much younger woman, she decides to call the FBI to report him. By doing this, she realizes her life will change dramatically, and change it does.
Jasmine has a nervous breakdown; everything she and her husband owned is taken by the U.S. government, and she is left with just the clothes she has. Broke and nowhere to go, she heads to San Francisco to live with her half-sister, Ginger (an adorable and perky Sally Hawkins). Blue Jasmine juxtaposes her San Francisco life with her former New York life, the smallest memory or thought she has in San Francisco takes her mind back to certain New York memories.
Yet, still mentally unstable and extremely emotional, she is at a loss as to what to do with her life. Thanks to her sister's fiance Chili (recent Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale), she gets a job as a receptionist in a dentist office, while at night she studies computers so she can become an interior designer. In the meantime, she meets and falls in love with wealthy diplomat Dwight Westlake (Peter Sarsgaard), yet she is not quite ready to tell him about her previous life in New York, including the fact that her husband committed suicide in prison. Jasmine is not having it easy.
Blue Jasmine, written and directed by Woody Allen, is one of his best films in years. His last two films, the charming To Rome With Love and the beautiful Midnight in Paris, took him to Europe. With Blue Jasmine, Allen is back on familiar territory (New York). Allen tends to bring out the best in acting from his actors, and Blue Jasmine is no exception. Blanchett has never been better, in Blue Jasmine she is obviously having a hard time of life, and when it appears she is on the way up, she just gets knocked back down again. Her character is a strong woman, but circumstance beyond her control have changed that. Baldwin, all suave and slick, is one of those actors you can always count on giving a great performance, and in Blue Jasmine he does again. Hawkins, bubbly in everything she is in, is fantastic as the sister, Ginger, who is happy with her lot in life (working as a clerk in a grocery store) and being attracted to men who are not very ambitious. Max Casalla, as Ginger's ex-husband, is very good, still blaming Jasmine for her husband's swindling of all of his money and the breakdown of his marriage.
Blue Jasmine is a very charming movie, with great performances, great location scenery in San Francisco, and a timely story. Let's hope Woody Allen continues to make movies for the next 50 years.