Film review: Blanchett's pain is all gain in Woody Allen's latest Blue Jasmine

(12A) Directed by Woody Allen, starring Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, 98mins

The bi- or triannual pronouncement that some new Woody Allen film or other represents a "return to form" has become a film reviewing cliché. But this one really does.

Much of the credit is due to Cate Blanchett, whose commanding performance as Jasmine, a gruesomely fascinating woman in the midst of a psychological breakdown, is can't-take-your-eyes-off-her good.

But Allen's dialogue is balanced right on the line between painful and funny, and scalpel-sharp – all the better with which to expose each of the layers of self-justification and protective denial with which Jasmine had previously constructed her personality.

She was previously married to a Bernie Madoff-style financier (Alec Baldwin), living the glittering life of a Manhattan socialite. But in the wake of his disgrace and arrest she throws herself upon the mercy of her working-class adoptive sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco, and attempts to adjust to a new life for which she is ill prepared.

A Streetcar Named Desire for the financial crisis era, Blue Jasmine loses just a little of its power as a moral fable because its depiction of working-class American life doesn't wholly ring true. But its condemnation of the culture of denial that allowed such pre-crisis affluence is still loud and clear, and as a character study it is pure gold.

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