Friday, August 2, 2013
The film hilariously opens with Jasmine's (Cate Blanchett) non-stop rambling about her life to a fellow first-class passenger on a cross country flight from New York City to San Francisco. She is actually at her lowest point in her life—not only her wealthy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) carries on multiple affairs, but also he ends up in prison for his Ponzi scheme investment fraud.
Financially broke and mentally broken, Jasmine reluctantly says goodbye to her luxury high class living on the Fifth Avenue in New York City. She comes to San Francisco to take refuge at the modest apartment of her not-so-close sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and to figure out how to stand on her own feet for the first time. She is at lost what she can do, yet she desperately clings on her glamorous past. She impulsively presents a persona that resembles her past, especially when she tries to impress a charming diplomat Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). She sees the reality only the way she wants to see, including a delusional herself she wants to be.
Generous Ginger works as a grocery cashier to support her two young sons from her previous marriage with Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). Ginger is much less judgmental about Jasmine's falling compared to Jasmine's disapproval about Ginger's working class boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale). She offers support when Jasmine needs it. She certainly shares the San Franciscan spirit in her personality.
Woody Allen elegantly captures the San Francisco's laid-back and friendly culture in this film. Either these characters are on the scenery streets or at booze fueled parties, they seem much nicer to each other than the New Yorkers, at least on the surface. The comical episode between Ginger and Al (Louis C.K.) is particular evident to this trend. His characters stroll the beautiful San Francisco streets, accompanied by soothing jazz music in the background—one of the trademarks in Woody Allen's films, besides humorous well-written dialogue.
The impressive ensemble cast gives a uniformly terrific performance. But Cate Blanchett clearly takes the extraordinary commanding presence throughout the film. Jasmine is another rich character brilliantly crafted by Woody Allen. Even Jasmine is hardly somebody who tends to draw sympathy from us, yet her psychological roller coaster ride is fascinating and captivating. Although the frequent shuffle between New York City and San Francisco, i.e. past and present, tends to be distracting, it constantly provides the sharp contrast for Jasmine's life now and then. It's a gratifying to see how Cate Blanchett effortlessly juggles between her multiple personalities in the film.
Sally Hawkins flawlessly plays Ginger in the film. She is absolutely fantastic in disappearing into her character seamlessly, of course without any British accent. She convincingly brings out Ginger's earnest good nature and down-to-earth kindness. Sally Hawkins was unfairly overlooked by the Academy Award for her wonderful performance in "Happy-Go-Lucky" (2008). This role should give her another chance to be rewarded. If Anne Hathaway can get an Oscar for singing a song, Sally Hawkins should have her Oscar in hand already for playing Ginger.
Woody Allen subtly offers a hint to New Yorkers: if you get in trouble in New York, come to San Francisco; besides beautiful scenery and relaxed atmosphere, you will find people like Ginger you can count on. He is right about it. It shows in the film.