Woody Allen, who wrote and directed Blue Jasmine seems to know a great deal about dysfunction, as every character in the film could be described as dysfunctional.
Cate Blanchett, who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Jasmine is the centerpiece of the film. I daresay that viewers do not take their eyes off her when she appears in a scene.
Jasmine is married to Hal (Alec Baldwin) whom we see mostly in flashbacks as Jasmine starts a new life in San Francisco. The couple had been wealthy New Yorkers with all the trappings that go with it. Gradually, Jasmine learns that Hal habitually sees other women while pretending to love her, particularly by presenting her with jewelry and everything else that she could possibly want.
In addition to his romantic dalliances, Hal is also uncovered as a thieving investment broker in the tradition of Bernie Madoff, and is sentenced to prison for his offenses. This leaves Jasmine penniless and friendless as people wonder if she knew of her husband’s trickery towards their friends.
Shamefully, Hal had previously talked Jasmine’s sister and brother-in-law, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) into investing their lottery winnings of $200,000 into a venture of Hal’s rather than following their plan to have Augie start his own business. Of course, their money is totally lost when the venture does not pan out, and bad feelings arise between the two couples.
We are initially introduced to Jasmine (prior to the flashbacks) as she flies to San Francisco to live with Ginger since she is totally broke and has no place to go. She is not received well by Augie, who is not in the picture for long as he and Ginger are soon divorced and Ginger takes up with what Jasmine considers another loser. Sally Hawkins, who plays Ginger, also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
In San Francisco, Jasmine takes a job as a dentist’s receptionist although her dream is to become an interior designer. She could take the course online although she has no computer skills and no money for the course. She considers a receptionist position as a step down and is soon even more disillusioned as the dentist makes sexual advances towards her and she is forced to quit the job.
A co-worker invites Jasmine to a gala evening where she meets a handsome widowed doctor and proceeds to lie to him, pretending to be an interior decorator, to save face. It happens that the doctor, named Dwight, has just purchased a home and wants to hire her to decorate it for him. He is also attracted to the person Jasmine. Of course, he soon finds out about her deceit and leaves her.
Throughout the film, we get close-up glimpses of Jasmine as she drinks too much, dresses beautifully, stares off into space, and tries desperately to start a new life while holding onto her old habits as a New York socialite with no money worries.
The story of Jasmine has been compared to A Streetcar Named Desire as the heroine suffers from falling onto hard times. This is not a film that will lift your spirits. Woody Allen’s perspective on unhappy lives is broader than the average person’s. Jasmine does not solve her problem before the end of the picture, which leaves the viewer hanging as to what awaits her in the future.