Woody Allen’s new movie “Blue Jasmine” is being called the writer-director’s homage to Tennessee Williams and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” But it’s closer in tone and style to Ingmar Bergman than anyone cares to admit, particularly “Autumn Sonata” and “Persona” — films whose heroines are tormented by fate, their mothers, and the consequences of their own erratic behavior.
In “Blue Jasmine,” the heroine is played by Cate Blanchett in a career-defining performance. Jasmine has fallen on hard times — she’s broke, widowed and cast out of her beloved Manhattan society. She’s also terrified of her future and on the edge of meltdown. She talks to herself, drinks heavily and fantasizes about getting even with those whom she imagines has wronged her. She arrives in San Francisco to stay with her half-sister (Sally Hawkins), who isn’t wealthy, either, but she’s happy in her relationship with an auto mechanic (Bobby Carnavale).
Allen traces Jasmine’s deep fall from grace in a flashback structure. “Blue Jasmine”’s plot offers a spellbinding character study of a woman who isn’t easy to care about but who keeps fighting and flailing for dignity. Allen’s filmmaking possesses passion and vitality that have been absent for nearly a decade. With Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard and a surprisingly good Andrew Dice Clay as Hawkins’ ex-husband.