Smart, sophisticated and bound to win an Oscar nod or two, “Blue Jasmine” is an outstanding Woody Allen movie about the fall from grace of a Hamptons socialite who begins to unravel after her husband loses a fortune.
Cate Blanchett turns in an Academy Award-worthy performance as Jasmine, who heads to San Francisco after her entire life falls apart. We meet Jasmine, well-dressed and carrying matching Louis Vuitton luggage, on a plane where she babbles incessantly to her seat neighbor in first class. She simply is unable to stop talking about how she met her husband (Alec Baldwin) when “Blue Moon” was playing, nor can she stop providing intimate details of her life, right down to her medications.
Jasmine is disgusted with the appearance of the apartment occupied by her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins, “Happy-Go-Lucky”), whose humble world includes her two constantly bickering sons and her blue-collar boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale, “The Station Agent”). Also entering the picture from time to time, mostly in flashback sequences, is Ginger’s ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay).
Immediately, Jasmine and Chili dislike each other. Chili thinks Jasmine is using Ginger, for whom she has had little time in the past. Jasmine thinks her sister can do better than this loud, beer-drinking fellow. Jasmine’s arrival is ill-timed: Chili and Ginger were discussing moving in together, and now that plan has to go on hold.
Jasmine has dreams about taking online classes in interior design, but first she needs to understand how to operate a computer. So she begins to take classes and also begins work as a receptionist for a dentist. She finds this situation intolerable and far beneath her station, so she begins to drink more heavily while popping Xanax with each additional stressor.
The movie presents Jasmine at elaborate dinner parties, then muttering to herself under the strain of living with Ginger and the two boys. All the while, we see what Ginger either has chosen not to see or to ignore: Jasmine’s husband was a smooth-talking liar and a cheat who victimized others for his ill-gotten gains.
As Jasmine continues her downward spiral, she rallies occasionally into her former classy, carefree self — long enough to attract a handsome diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard) who is unaware of her dire straits.
The movie owes its pedigree to “A Streetcar Named Desire,” with its volatile relationship between Chili and Jasmine. But it’s not a remake and stands on its own as one of Allen’s top movies. It has its comedic moments to be sure, but it also depicts Jasmine’s breakdown in compelling, dramatic scenes.
The secondary characters, including Louis C.K. as another love interest for Ginger, are every bit as interesting and well-developed as the leads. You will remember them all, and they won’t be forgotten during awards season, either.