Cate Blanchett as Jasmine Francis
Sally Hawkins as Ginger
Alec Baldwin as Hal Francis
Bobby Cannavale as Chili
Andrew Dice Clay as Augie
Louis C.K. as Al
Peter Sarsgaard as Dwight
Alden Ehrenreich as Danny
Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Flicker
Max Casella as Eddie
Tammy Blanchard as Jane
Directed by Woody Allen
Wealthy socialite wife Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett) has lost everything after her businessman husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was caught by the FBI stealing money from investors, so she has moved to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and a series of men Jasmine deems bad for her. As she adjusts to her new lifestyle, Jasmine reflects back on her past in New York City and what went wrong, particularly with her cheating husband.
Everyone waiting for another great Woody Allen movie ala "Midnight in Paris" may have to wait a little longer since his latest film once again has a great ensemble cast, many of them doing their best work, but overall, it suffers from the same tonal issues that have been plaguing many of his other recent works. At least this one is somewhat topical and timely, branching off a Bernie Maddoff-like storyline about a wealthy but corrupt businessman caught stealing and focusing on his now-impoverished wife trying to adjust to a very different life on the other side of the country with people she feels are below her.
We open with Cate Blanchett's title character talking rapidly to a woman on a plane as they deboard and walk through the airport to the baggage claim, making us think Jasmine is another typical talkative Woody Allen character we've seen many times, whether it's from Diane Keaton or Scarlett Johanssen (in her more comedic appearances). Unfortunately, this isn't one of Allen's strongest comedic screenplays and this is probably the funniest portion of the entire movie as it's a far more serious affair once we get past that.
Blanchett's Jasmine has arrived in San Francisco where she's going to stay with her sister and her family, but rather than rather than telling a linear story with Allen's typical expository dialogue, Allen uses flashbacks to show Jasmine's life before hitting rock bottom as it cuts back to New York and Jasmine's good life with her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) before things went wrong. The problem with this storytelling format is that it's very easy to adjust to what is happening in San Francisco, which is the most enjoyable aspect of the film, so every time it cuts to another New York flashback with Baldwin those scenes just don't feel nearly as inventive.
Blanchett gives another great performance that almost makes the movie worthwhile and Sally Hawkins is just as good as her sister, but while Allen surrounds them with another great ensemble cast, it feels like many of the other actors are underused with so much of the movie focusing on the relationship between the sisters whenever it's not cutting back to Jasmine's past.
Any time this routine starts to get somewhat stale, Allen brings in another player, whether it's Bobby Cannavale as Ginger's current boyfriend, Michael Stuhlbarg as Jasmine's amorous dentist boss or Peter Sarsgaard as a well-to-do love interest who Jasmine immediately lies to about her past. The movie starts to lose even more focus when it starts following Ginger's own problems as she sleeps with a guy she met at a party (played by Louis CK) angering her current boyfriend, but Hawkins is so good in the role that it's a more than welcome tangent. Cannavale is also very good as her fiancé, but probably the biggest surprise is Andrew Dice Clay, who has a few great moments at the beginning as Hawkins' former husband—Jasmine doesn't approve of any of the men in her sister's life—and another one later on in the movie.
Even so, at times, it feels like Allen is more concerned with creating an interesting soundtrack of tunes to accompany their story rather than creating interesting characters and the whole thing seems a bit "on the nose" in what he's trying to achieve. In fact, it's hard at times to justify "Blue Jasmine" as a comedy at all because there are very few moments that elicit any sort of strong laughs and things do start getting dark and dramatic as it goes along even though it's still stronger than many of Allen's recent straight dramas. The results are a movie that doesn't feel like it knows whether it wants to be serious or funny, which is why it ultimately doesn't work at being either.
The Bottom Line:
Not a complete dud—Blanchett, Hawkins and Cannavale all give excellent performances—but for a film that starts as a "fish out of water" comedy, it's not that funny, instead feeling more disjointed and all over the place in terms of tone and even dull at times. Then again, while "Blue Jasmine" may not be Allen's best recent film, it's far from his worst as well. It's just sort of somewhere in the middle.