Woody Allen has managed to tell a juicy, colorful social tale rife with undertones that speak volumes of the dark times we are living in. He manages to make the characters' lives not only theirs, but ours -- whichever side of the dollar we have found ourselves on.
Alec Baldwin does Mr. Slick perfectly, playing the husband of the center of this film, the great actress Cate Blanchett. Her luminosity and intelligence radiate through the pores of the screen.
In a twisty homage to A Streetcar Named Desire meets Bernie Madoff, Mr. Allen's players portray the inauthenticness of the gilded set and the sweat of the working poor in equal doses. From the dinner parties for thirty on Park Avenue to the thrill of getting a fresh clam in San Francisco, these worlds collide... despite the great expense spent by the rich on keeping them apart... And that's an interesting problem to begin with.
Not wanting to give away the plot, two sisters are forced to gauge their own lives through each other's gains and losses... Money has corrupted one and left the other to dry... but it's the trauma of loss (and there is no better word for it) that pushes Ms. Blanchett's character to down Zanex and vodka and talk to herself. Specific to this character, but also a huge sign of these desperate times; where the bottom falls out and one must face their true selves...be it on the street or in compromised jobs and marriages.
All ideas that there are losers and winners is vanquished in this film... winning can be as a false as the idea of losing out... Money does not guarantee fidelity and joy and at least in this movie, carries with it the necessary obligation to tell the truth... which it fails to do. But the underclass are no more honorable; especially the men who want sex. Let's face it...people lie about money and sex to get their needs met, despite the consequences to others. Even the musical character, Louie CK, fails to be counted on... is Mr. Allen saying something about the romantic deception of music?
Bobby Cannavalle as a lug is perhaps a little too enthusiastic and less believable as the heart of gold ape, especially compared to Ms. Blanquette's subtle and elegant characterization of a woman on the edge, but he's her Stanley and is important as he pushes her to accept change. Sally Hawkins is interesting only when she fights back with her sister's judgment; it's hard for working class characterizations to step beyond bad hair and jewelry. But Peter Sarsgard as a potential new lover and savior, hits a right note; old San Francisco money, tasteful yet dashed with a suspect touch that would make sense for a future politician.
There has been such great loss in these last 15 years...from the shock of 9/11 to mortgage scandals to continuous wars and imprisonment of the innocent. Jasmine's character symbolizes that grief and the disillusion that goes with seeing dreams broken, even fatuous ones. Her lips tremble, then smile, then tremble again. That we are not all trembling at what may yet to come down the pike is because of the power of humor... "Send in the Clowns"... keep Mr. Allen well and creating and at least in this film, holding up a mirror to the nation.