Woody Allen's latest film, called "Blue Jasmine," stars Cate Blanchett as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following report for NY1.
"Blue Jasmine," Woody Allen's powerful and enthralling new movie, is about a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and there's something cathartic about a contemporary film that's willing to explore madness not just as brain chemistry gone wrong, but as an expression of who someone really is.
Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett, is doing her best to keep it together, but there are moments when she talks to herself on the street. With no money, no skills and nowhere else to go, she shows up at the apartment of her sister, a grocery cashier in San Francisco played by Sally Hawkins.
The movie keeps jumping back to the life Jasmine was leading before, when she was married to a wealthy wheeler-dealer, played by Alec Baldwin, who was not what he seemed. In the flashbacks, she's living a mirage, but it's a dream she's chosen to believe in. When it all comes crashing down, she hates what reality has become, so she turns away from reality.
"Blue Jasmine" has a few uneasy laughs, but it's a straight-up Woody Allen drama, and his most compelling film since "Match Point." After a while, we start to realize that the movie is Allen's gloss on "A Streetcar Named Desire," with Jasmine as a Blanche DuBois of the economic-meltdown era. That sounds like a labored idea, but Allen, pushing the Blanche figure front and center, gives the action a grippingly contemporary resonance and flow.
Blanchett, her eyes shining, makes Jasmine at once ardent, touching, off-putting and cracked in her grand delusions. It's an awesome mood ring of a performance.
Allen nails the attitudes of the wealthy, but he also gets surprising and dynamic work from Hawkins, Cannavale, and Andrew Dice Clay as the folks who have no money but may have a fuller sense of what life is. Jasmine tries to rise above them, but she's done in, over and over, by her illusions.
The greatness of Blanchett's acting is that she shows you how madness doesn't just destroy Jasmine but, in some terrible way, fulfills her destiny.