In the past, Allen would've intentionally avoided justice or karma as a way to reinforce life's cold indifference, and maybe even pile an extra dollop of tragedy on the good people just to drive the point home. That's what makes the arc of the two sisters (and others) markedly unique in the Allen canon. This time, Allen isn't just content with mocking the societal elites he abhors (though he does, and with relish), he has to destroy them. At long last they get their comeuppance and, conversely, the put-upon working class types reap simple but real rewards for trying hard and overcoming hardships, even self-inflicted ones. I doubt Allen's changed his core worldview, but it's refreshing to see him indulge in catharsis (even if his need for retribution borders on sadistic).

Allen puts Jasmine through the absolute wringer (all of it self-inflicted, which makes it not just a morality play but an indictment) and Blanchett gives herself over completely to psychosis. Even if it's a redux of her Blanche characterization, her performance remains nothing short of a searing portrayal of self-destruction. Film critic icon Pauline Kael's take on Vivien Leigh's Oscar-winning turn of Blanche can now also be said of Blanchett's Jasmine: "One of those rare performances that can truly be said to evoke pity and terror."

Blanchett mesmerizes, but the ensemble does not pale by comparison – especially Hawkins, whose empathetic Ginger deserves the level of Supporting Actress buzz Blanchett's receiving for Lead. Baldwin and Dice Clay also serve as perfect counterpoints, with Clay bringing his own Oscar-clip chops. Other notable actors pop up as well, most distinctively Bobby Cannavale (Win Win), whose explosive jealousy is the film's Kowalski archetype.

Despite the film's core power to evoke, the bald-faced Streetcar overtones feel cheap at first blush and become more striking as Ginger – and her relationship with hot-blooded men – bares an intentional resemblance to Blanche's sister Stella. That, plus occasional exposition-heavy dialogue gives the strong impression that we’re watching Woody’s first draft. Still, even with the neo-plagiarism of Tennessee Williams considered (not to mention direct cribbing of his own aforementioned Interiors), Allen brings a vitality to his characters and story that can't be denied, and even becomes all-consuming. Woody may be working at a prolifically too-fast clip to be reaching greatness, but nobody could accuse him of coasting on his laurels.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Jasmine's character drinks often to deal with stress, as well as abusing prescription drugs. Other instances of social drinking. Some smoking. References to drug use.
  • Language/Profanity: Six instances of the Lord's name taken in vain. A few uses of the S-word. One H-word. A couple of sexually vulgar terms are used.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: Several instances of kissing, including the kissing of a mistress. Husband flirts with other women. Adultery themes. Instances of flirting/sexual banter. Discussion of sex both right before and after people engage in it, though the sex itself is not depicted beyond initial kissing. A man forces himself on a woman before she wrestles away from him.
  • Violence/Other: A couple of characters have hot tempers, and one explodes on a few occasions including a tirade through an apartment in which things are thrown and destroyed. Verbal abuse. Suicide is discussed. 

Publication date: August 23, 2013