When you have everything you could possibly want, you wouldn’t want to do anything that could possibly reveal the cracks in your fairy tale. So what do you do? Turn a blind eye and question nothing. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) had perfected this skill. As all things too good to be true, the perfect picture is shattered, not only by her husband Hal’s (Alec Baldwin) numerous affairs but him being arrested and sentenced for fraud. Literally loosing everything, Jasmine is forced to seek shelter in San Francisco with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Flying first class from New York to San Francisco and chatting away about her glamorous life to a unknown elderly woman, the script wastes no time in exposing Jasmine as a conceited woman who prefers to live in her memories. Clearly neurotic, Jasmine refuses to allow herself to admit her current reality and is determined to make something of herself, all the while belittling Ginger’s lifestyle and choice in men. Suffering from severe anxiety, Jasmine keeps up the pretense with Xanax and Vodka and occasionally reenacting scenes from the past.
Craving her former life Jasmine meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a very successful and wealthy widower with his eye set on congress. Immediately she plays the part of the perfect find, claiming to be childless and also a widow, while we know what her husband has done, and that her son has denounced her. When Ginger’s ex-husband happens to walk into the new couple, Jasmine fails to keep a straight face and soon finds herself in a shameful state of abandonment and disillusion.
The film touches on topics such as sexual harassment, infidelity, fraud, social classes and mental instability but doesn’t comment on it, rather the focus lies with Jasmine. An unlikable protagonist, to put it mildly, we learn to pity her as we watch her disintegrate.
However, this is not a favourite of Allen’s work (personal taste). The success of this film does owe a lot to lead actress Cate Blanchett, who won a Best Actress award for this performance. In preparation for the role of Jasmine, Blanchett said “I did a lot of people watching. I drank my fair share of rosé. In the end I had to play the anti-heroine that Woody’s written, but of course I thought about the Madoff scandal, because that’s the holocaust of the financial crisis. And there are many, many women like that. I followed them like everybody else did, but as an actress you go back and you’re slightly more forensic about those relationships.”
Personal opinion aside, it has received high praise with critics and the general public. The film has been compared to infamous play, A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, due to the many similarities between Blanche DuBois and Jasmine. Both undoubtedly challenging, but great roles to play.
The script doesn’t really offer much development to the supporting characters. Perhaps purposely so, as she’s the only one who has to start anew. Everyone else remains set in their ways, going about their daily routines, as all people tend to do. As she clings on a former facade, no one really cares. Life goes on, while she wallows in her memories.