Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen's cinematic ode to a Western metropolis. In this case, he's torn between California and New York. Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett, is a Park Avenue socialite whose divorce from her sleazy wall-street husband leaves her abruptly penniless and mentally unstable. In an impulsive attempt to piece her life back together, Jasmine moves to San Francisco and bunks down with her adopted sister, who is barely scraping by as a grocery cashier. Jasmine, neurotic, fast-talking, and really just barely functioning, is portrayed masterfully. Blanchett brings intensity to the role with her staccato drawl and heavy, half-shut eyes. Jasmine does feel very much like a real person, but as a delusional alcoholic, she's not exactly likable. The story is told out of order, using flashbacks to fill in the gaps of Jasmine's former life. Blanchett nails this as well, effortlessly characterizing the old Jasmine as a pampered trophy wife. The viewer really gets the sense that a life of abject luxury has left her bored and restless.
Set against the postcard-worthy backdrop of San Francisco, and populated by characters with Brooklyn accents and Jersey mannerisms, Allen toes the line between the East and West Coasts and their opposing nuances. Jasmine, her sister, and company, with their distinctly Eastern sensibilities, are constantly grappling with the perpetual siesta of seaside life in Northern California. This juxtaposition is particularly startling and functions not only as a portrait of transplanted New Yorkers but of San Francisco. As in most of Allen's films, the city itself is a character, engaging with Jasmine, urging her to slow down and step outside the whirlwind of her mania -- but, ultimately failing to do so. Blue Jasmine is a harrowing film, poignant and darkly comic. Allen's writing and Blanchett's performance make for quite a meaningful journey.