By: Mary Fran Bontempo

blue_jasmine_ver2Who would have thought?

Being filthy, insanely rich has a downside. Well, it has a downside if your husband turns out to be a philandering, lying cheat, a la Bernie Madoff, who is caught, thrown into jail and you, his devoted spouse, lose everything and end up living with your down-on-her luck sister.

Blue Jasmine, the latest offering from writer/director Woody Allen and starring the gloriously elegant Cate Blanchett in the title role, gives movie-goers the wife’s take on a story taken from recent headlines.

Jasmine, so renamed by herself when the name Jeannette felt too ordinary for a woman of such self-proclaimed fabulosity, hardly engenders sympathy after her fall from grace. She’s spoiled, indifferent, arrogant and still so self-absorbed that she talks incessantly about her amazing former life to anyone within earshot.

But she’s also broken–stunned by the turn of events that have rendered her homeless and at the mercy of her low class but good-hearted sister. And try as she might–Jasmie enrolls in a computer class and takes a menial job as a dental receptionist–her fragile psyche, as well as the appearance of a roster of men apparently intent, consciously or not, on derailing her, Jasmine is lost. Mostly she is lost to her memories of a life that was a fantasy while she lived it, and then lost to a new reality she simply cannot grasp.

Blanchett is simply stunning in the role, with her cool, reserved bearing. She’s accompanied by a stellar supporting cast, most notably a crude and rude Bobby Cannavale as Chili, Jasmine’s sister’s fiance, and Alec Baldwin in another smarmy role as Hal, Jasmine’s husband.

Reality is tough for everyone in Jasmine’s orbit, and she deserves sympathy least of all. But somehow, you just can’t help but feel for her as she crumbles in front of your eyes.

There are a few, mostly uncomfortable, laughs and the movie isn’t for the faint of heart. But it is haunting in its portrayal of a woman coming unhinged. Worth a look, if not in theaters, perhaps for a moody rainy day when it surfaces on DVD. Just make sure you have a glass of wine handy. You’re going to need it.