Four years ago Cate Blanchett was playing Blanche DuBois in a Kennedy Centre production of "A Streetcar named Desire". Neurotic, needy, fantasising and high-maintenance, Cate's depiction of Blanche won admiration and acclaim.
It's not too much of a stretch to imagine Woody Allen seeing her in that part, and envisaging how Blanche, played by Cate, might deal with a fall down today's social precipice – from the glitz of the top 1% in New York, to poverty in a down at heel quarter of San Francisco.
The film opens with Jasmine (Cate Blanchett's character) flying first class to San Francisco, and driving an unfortunate fellow passenger crazy by delusional non-stop small talk about her past high flying existence.
Flash-backs to New York show-case the gradual disintegration of Jasmine's privileged lifestyle, and of her marriage to her handsome super-successful confidence trickster husband.
In San Francisco she retains many of the mannerisms of the rich, while trying to persuade herself that she is not irrevocably locked into compromise and failure.
Once again she meets a handsome man clearly on a stratospheric career trajectory, and it begins to look as if she can re-invent herself once more. Even her low-achieving sister begins to dream of a better life.
Cate Blanchett dominates this film, creating a delusional, larger than life, self-absorbed brittle monster, who contains within herself the seeds of her own destruction. Her performance is always totally mesmerising, even when we are willing her to be other that what she is.
This homage to Tennessee Williams works wonderfully well.
Alex Baldwin inhabits the role of the charming, philandering successful entrepreneur whose attempt to escape from his unstable trophy wife ultimately destroys both.
Sally Hawkins, as Kate's sister, with noisy kids and a dead-end job is an excellent foil to Jasmine, whose story unfolds inexorably throughout the film, as the glamour fades, and the despair morphs into mind-numbing pain.
We may not always like Jasmine – her neurotic self-absorption and sense of entitlement are jarring – but we can feel her suffering.
This film is clever and compassionate and may well be one of Woody Allen's best.