*** out of ****
Writer/director Woody Allen continues his astonishing pace of one film a year (even though he turns 78 in December) with Blue Jasmine, a film that merges elements of A Streetcar Named Desire with the Bernie Madoff scandal.
Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, the widow of a financial bigwig (Alec Baldwin) who committed suicide after being arrested for massive fraud. After growing used to a pampered Manhattan lifestyle, she moves to San Francisco to stay with her bluecollar adopted sister (Sally Hawkins).
Allen has often cribbed heavily from other writers and directors (Bergman, Fellini, etc.), but Jasmine's story is a little too reminiscent of Blanche DuBois in Streetcar for its own good. That said, Blanchett deserves kudos for a brave, fully committed performance. She actually does manage to elicit sympathy for a shallow, unlikable character who is often so tiresome that you want to slap her.
The film also deserves credit for presenting a working-class San Francisco that moviegoers often aren't able to see. It avoids the awestruck tourist cliches that have marred some of Allen's European films.
The movie itself may be a little too derivative, but Blanchett's performance makes it worth seeing.