Hal was a high-finance high-rolling swindler and crook who had divested most of his friends and thousands of investors in a Madoff size fraud. The Government has taken him, and everything they could lay their hands on, just leaving a bewildered Jasmine with nothing more than a few Louis Vuitton cases of designer threads. She’s desperate enough to turn to Ginger her adopted blue-collar sister who has settled for being a grocery store packer and who she has studiously avoided for years. Ginger lives in a small apartment in the Mission district with her two chubby children and is dating a stereotypical New Jersey Italian jock: he is the ‘Stanley’ to Jasmine’s ‘Blanche’ in this take on ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Jasmine despises all the strangers whose kindnesses she now must rely on just to make do.
In the flashbacks to her extravagant life its clear to see how much Jasmine has been humbled as she tries to make a new life in a world for which she is totally unqualified and is almost something of an alien. Albeit an alcoholic one. When she latches on a potentially wealthy suitor who she imagines could be her ticket out of poverty, her past comes back to haunt her and spoil her chances.
In a tour de force Oscar worthy performance Cate Blanchett as the self-centered wounded bird Jasmine flutters in and out of reality desperately clinging to the parts of her past that she has chosen to keep remembering. In a part that has a few sharp funny lines (about Flying first class in particular) we are divided between feeling sorry for this narcissistic woman who chose not to recognize that her husband was a crook until she uncovered his personal disloyalty, and being appalled at her condescending disdain of everybody else.
Jasmine is in the center of a tragedy which at times seems to have the possibility of dragging everyone else over the precipice with her, but they lack the compulsive greed that permeates with easy money and unhinged her way before it all disappeared.
This is 80 year-old Woody Allen’s latest excellent take on how he views the some of the disheartening aspects of contemporary society. He so precisely encapsulates how money replaced morality and no-one really objected until we discovered both were lost for the time being ….. and possibly for good. It’s a dark depressing tale but there are always signature Allen one liners to provide us with a few laughs along the way …… plus he fills the ensemble with a stellar cast that excel even in the most minor of roles.
The cool, calm and so tolerant Ginger is delightful Brit actor Sally Hawkins who was the perfect balance against Jasmine. Bobby Cannavale plays Ginger’s beau Chili and comedian Andrew Dice Clay was her italian ex-husband Augie …. another ‘Stanley’. Alec Baldwin was super slimy as Hal the crook, and Peter Sarsgaard super smooth as Jasmine’s potential fiancé.
Allen steers totally clear of passing judgement on Jasmine’s plight and lets us draw our own conclusion. Far be it for me to detract from the levity of one of his best movies to date BUT on a lighter note, I would say that the message is clear. Take a tip from Jasmine and if you are going to lose everything including your mind, than be sure to be wearing your best Chanel when you are with the other homeless on a park bench : it works so well.