Review: 'Blue Jasmine' is brilliant

Blanchett unspools an Oscar-winning performance

Woody Allen channels Tennessee Williams to great success in the neurotic filmmaker's latest, "Blue Jasmine," a character study that's rich with nuances and utterly satisfying.


Perhaps it isn't by chance that Cate Blanchett is cast as Jasmine since Allen has tapped Williams' "Streetcar Named Desire" for the character, who shares many of the same characteristics as Blanche Dubois. Blanchett has played Ms. Dubois on Broadway.


Once living high on the hog in New York City as a Manhattan socialite with her investment banker husband, Hal (Baldwin), Jasmine turns up in San Francisco lugging Louis Vuitton bags and dressed in her best Chanel. She's penniless and on the verge of a breakdown after the break up of her marriage. Her adopted sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), lives a simple life in S.F., as a grocery clerk dating a grease monkey named Chili (Bobby Cannavale).


When Jasmine moves in to the small apartment, the two worlds collide, and the narcissistic Jasmine turns everyone's world upside down. In flashbacks we learn how her life unraveled, which even includes Ginger and her ex-husband (Andrew Dice Clay) getting involved in Hal's shady dealings, of which Ginger still holds a grudge.


Characters come in and out, including comedian Louis C.K. playing a sound engineer who sweeps Ginger off of her feet after her sister has convinced her that Chili should be dumped. There's also a lecherous dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg) who Jasmine encounters as she takes a job as a receptionist, something she fails miserably at.


Blanchett's Jasmine is a whirling chaos, leaving people stunned in her wake. There's no doubt that her downfall wasn't just caused by husband, but in her own reckless denial. Allen's study of Jasmine is one that questions self-knowledge and the paths we take to avoid dealing with our own flaws and pain. Jasmine is only comfortable when she's putting on a show. She latches on to a politician (Peter Sarsgaard) who, she believes, can fill her void by putting her atop the social ladder again. But that relationship falls apart when her true self begins to appear.


Allen has coaxed a phenomenal performance out of his leading lady. No doubt Blanchett's performance is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination for 2014 and could well net her a statue. Hawkins, too, should be prime for a supporting actress nomination.


"Blue Jasmine" is a modern-day Shakespearean fall from grace tale that combines comedy and tragedy. The tale digs into every fiber of the anti-heroine's being leaving her crumpled and crushed under her own delusions. One of Allen's best films to date, "Blue Jasmine" resonates long after the closing credits.