A New York socialite, deeply troubled and in denial, arrives in San Francisco to impose upon her sister.
The workaholic Woody Allen (78 this year) keeps on turning ‘em out, and his annual-ish offerings sometimes hit (Midnight In Paris), occasionally clunk (Cassandra’s Dream), often prove to be familiar and frothy (To Rome With Love) or stray into darker areas, like Match Point and this latest effort, in which Cate Blanchett plays a character vaguely indebted to A Streetcar Named Desire who’s amongst the most damaged and messed-up in all his films. And, more daringly, very hard to like. Cate’s formerly high-living, Park-Avenue-shopping Jasmine (or is it Jeanette?) is introduced arriving in San Francisco from New York to live with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in Ginger’s small, ‘homey’ apartment, and immediately there’s trouble,as Jasmine is broke after the tax-evading and womanising activities of her husband Hal(Alec Baldwin in his third pic for Woody). Flashbacks show how rich and privileged she was (or at least believed herself to be), and these then demonstrate just how broken Jasmine has become, as she talks to herself in delusional episodes from the past that freak out those around her. Intriguingly, while another director (or another Woody Allen movie) might have made Jasmine’s cracking psyche something for which we’re invited to feel sympathy and sadness, instead we’re here rather distanced from her, and as the plot progresses and she’s consistently nastily snobby to Ginger and her would-be boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale) and, later, lies to a potential rich beau (Peter Sarsgaard as Dwight), our ability to laugh at her decreases and something tragic and even rather scary creeps in. Blessed with an unusually diverse cast (including two generations of big names inUS comedy: Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay), this is certainly a comedy until things turn ugly and, in a brave moment, Cate’s make-up comes off for a long, lingering close-up (and yes, she’s still gorgeous – but anyway).