Jasmine (Blanchett) is used to the high life of a socialite and all the sycophantic rubbish that comes with being one of those people, but when her husband Hal (Baldwin) is indicted for dodgy business deals she is forced to leave New York. Her only option is head west to San Francisco and her sister Ginger’s (Hawkins) place in the hope of a new start and a chance to redefine herself. None of this will be possible, though, unless she can overcome the biggest obstacle she faces, herself.”
Opening with Jasmine chattering away on an airplane to an older woman it quickly becomes apparent that she is extremely damaged by the circumstances that have led her to this point. Finding herself in her sisters less than spacious apartment it’s quickly clear that she is used to a different world as we flash back to New York and her purchase of a home with the very smooth Hal. The story continues in this vein all the way through as we are frequently transported back to New York by way of comparison with her current situation and it works surprisingly well.
Focusing primarily on Jasmines slide into insanity there is also a spotlight thrown on the fickleness of relationships throughout. There isn’t a single person here who hasn’t been damaged in some way by their previous relationships. Almost everyone is lying about themselves, is willing to cheat and is deluded by their own vision of who they are. It does sometimes feel like certain elements are underdeveloped, like Ginger’s relationship with Al (Louis C.K.) but it manages to rumble on as the performances help to paper over the cracks.
There is already talk of an Oscar for Blanchett on the back of this performance and rightfully so. She is a powerhouse of deceit, delusion and energy as she continually tears down her sister’s life/man choices while consuming a Jim Morrison like amount of alcohol and pills. She is on fire and manages to pull off that most difficult of tasks, making you feel sorry for someone who is a senseless asshole that has spent their life in denial. While she is undoubtedly the star of this show it must be said that the support cast deliver fantastic performances throughout. They don’t get much time to shine but they seize their moments with both hands. Hawkins is brilliant, but it’s her partners past and present that deliver the most. Henry Dice Clay is perfect as her ex husband who has had the life sucked out of him. He positively hates both Jasmine and Hal and you really feel it when he’s on screen. Cannavale delivers both hurt and humour in equal measure as Ginger’s boyfriend “Chili” as he attempts to keep Jasmine from coming between the two of them. Sarsgaard gets little screen time, but he delivers a wonderfully subtle performance as the congressman in waiting. Baldwin is terrific as the crooked business man that lies to Jasmine, as though it’s as simple as breathing, on a day to day basis. The beauty in his performance is how it highlights the emptiness of their sycophantic lives as Jasmine continues to be oblivious to the signals that even poor old Ginger would recognise.
The cinematography, tone and score are exactly what we have come to expect from Allen and in a nice turn he avoids using the hilly streets, trams and Golden Gate Bridge to remind us we are in San Francisco. It could be anywhere, once it’s not New York, for both Jasmine and the audience.
Go for the Blanchett, stay for the Woody and enjoy the rest.