I bought a ticket to this movie knowing absolutely nothing about it, and almost immediately as it began I knew I was watching a Woody Allen movie.
I cannot say exactly why this is so. Perhaps it was the richness of the character study, and the fact that Allen writes so excellently for female characters. In any event, Cate Blanchett's character, and her brilliant performance of this down on her luck former socialite married to a conman husband played by Alec Baldwin, may be the best female character performance you will see on a movie screen this year, and Blanchett's performance is probably the most Oscar worthy I have seen so far.
Set in San Francisco in the present day it unfolds the complex relationship of two sisters, one upper class but fallen on hard times, and her working class sister who makes working class choices. Because it unfolds in a non linear fashion it appears to dip randomly into different events over a period of about 15 years or so, and we understand why the sister is working class.
One of the themes of the movie is honesty, and facing reality, and Jasmine makes choices that seem oblivious to it. She fibs and tells little lies, at one level self deceptive, and at another deceptive of others. We may not like her for this, but if you're like me, I felt tremendous compassion for her, even loved her in spite of everything, which is not often I feel that way about a character. She suffers from severe anxiety, and the events she has to undergo take a toll on her. One particular choice she makes has particularly severe repercussions, yet in the moment we fully understand it.
I think it is fair to say moving to Europe and making films there has been wonderful for Woody Allen. In an interview he said that his previous movies were critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful. Now he has made a series of outstanding movies, and written brilliant roles particularly for women.
I cannot claim to love all of them, but Vicky Cristina Barcelona was excellent and Penelope Cruz won an Oscar for her performance. Match Point is probably my personal favorite starring Scarlet Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, about an upwardly mobile ambitious tennis coach, and what may be a perfect murder. Midnight in Paris was dreamy and sentimental, and won an Oscar for best screenplay. Woody Allen has been nominated a staggering 23 times for an Academy Award winning four times, three times for Best Original Screenplay, and once for Best Director of Annie Hall.
Actors who worked with him have also won Oscars. Remember Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite, and Michael Caine for Hannah and Sisters.
As someone who lives in San Francisco, I can say that he makes it look almost better than the reality, and a beige BMW can do wonders to enliven the surroundings.
It seems to me that like a good wine, Woody just gets better with age, and easily maintains his excellence with this movie.
I think most people will enjoy this movie, and I hope this was helpful.