This is Woody Allen’s latest film all about a beautiful, insincere, neurotic woman who descends from riches to rags. Starring Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins it’s supposedly a comedy-drama about two adopted sisters whose lives have taken very different routes.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) gave lavish dinner parties in Manhattan apparently unaware that her husband Hal was a fraudster, while sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) married a blue collar worker who lost the chance to start his own business when he ‘invested’ in one of Hal’s dodgy deals.
From start to finish, the film is a canvas for Cate Blanchett’s superb acting. She captures every nuance of the selfish and self-obsessed Jasmine who hides behind a beautiful and charming facade. Her sister Ginger, equally well played by Sally Hawkins, is the counter-character. Almost too simple to be real, she is down to earth, honest and trusts all men to be the same. The sisters are undoubtedly stereotypes, but at least they are well-acted ones.
The action commences as Jasmine flies from New York to San Francisco to start a new life, taking advantage of her Ginger’s good nature and moving into her homely apartment, much to the annoyance of her lovable boyfriend Augie. He is well played by Andrew Dice Clay, managing to be laddish and even boorish whilst generating sympathy and hilarity throughout.
And this film needs all the laughs it can get. Cate Blanchett’s excellent portrayal of a neurotic woman’s descent into a world of lies and pills turns from comedy into tragedy. There’s a brilliant scene where Jasmine finally unburdens herself in a diner to her two nephews aged about eleven and nine years old. The elder questions her with an expressionless face while by contrast Cate’s elastic features switch from in-control to out-of control with astonishing speed and accuracy.
What may have been conceived a trite comedy could have easily become a more complicated drama but there is the need to bring the thing to an end in under two hours. Sadly there are only two possible endings, and neither of them are satisfactory. Perhaps there is no way out of a comedy that has turned, by sheer force of good acting, into a tragedy.