Starring Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K., Peter Sarsgaard

In a story that leans heavily on Tennessee Williams’ A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Cate Blanchett is explosive as a woman suddenly made poor and dependent on the “kindness of strangers.” Or, at least, on the kindness of her sister (Hawkins). Married to a Bernie Madoff type (Baldwin) Jasmine goes abruptly from a New York socialite to a homeless woman talking to herself on the street. Her sister takes her in and nearly sacrifices her hopes of happiness in the process. Dissatisfaction is contagious apparently.

This is a movie with many strengths and several weaknesses. It is one of Allen’s least self-conscious films. Little of the story calls to mind his other movies—perhaps because he borrows heavily from Tennessee Williams here. Most of his usual tics are gone. Blanchett sparkles in every scene. We never like Jasmine much, but we understand her dilemma: she was only prepared to be rich.

Although Allen never really seems to grab hold of San Francisco, the way he’s done in the past with New York, Paris, London and even Barcelona, it’s not as important with this story. It is a very interior-bound film, both in setting and in plot.

His missteps include his off-the-mark portrayal of working -class men. His blue-collar characters wear jewelry, cry a lot, and sport strange haircuts. In fact, none of the men are very convincing in their parts with the exception of Baldwin, who could play this role (so similar to his character on 30 Rock) in his sleep. Additionally, the thirties style music: blues and jazz that Allen always favors, seem at odds with this very contemporary movie.

There are certainly enough strengths to recommend this movie. Blanchett’s acting alone makes it worth a watch. But whenever Allen tries to portray people who live miles from Park Avenue, he runs into trouble. Maybe he just needs to get out more.

Patti Abbott