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Film Review – Blue Jasmine

3 min read

Blue Jasmine, written and directed by Woody Allen, tells the story of Jasmine (Cate Blanchette), a former wealthy socialite who has moved from Manhattan to San Francisco to take up with her sister, Ginger, in Ginger’s modest apartment.  When her high-powered financier husband (Alec Baldwin) was revealed as a fraudster, Jasmine’s life fell to pieces as the privilege, wealth and luxury she was accustomed to evaporated almost overnight.  Needless to say, when she arrives in San Francisco she is on the edge; desperately clinging to the shred of sanity she has remaining thanks to the pills and vodka she keeps on hand.  She quickly clashes with Ginger’s common boyfriend, who she thinks is beneath her, and…wait, is this starting to sound familiar?  As the story unfolds, it is clear what Allen has produced is a modern take on the iconic Tennessee Williams play, A Streetcar Named Desire.   Plot, characters, and even some of the dialogue are so similar, once you make the connection between the two, there are no surprises in the film at all (even the ending).  The story unfolds in nearly the same sequence of events, with only a few additional characters (such as Jasmine’s son) that are essentially pointless.

Blue Jasmine

Just like Blanche duBois in Streetcar, Jasmine is all about security, social status and appearances, and as her financial and social status degrades, her sanity and self-worth go along with it. Like Blanche, she desperately tries to ensnare someone of proper social standing and means to carry her away and lift her back up to the level she feels she deserves, even if she has to tell a few lies. Her saviour, an aspiring politician named Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), unfortunately catches on before too long and … well… you know how it goes.

Obviously, Blue Jasmine doesn’t come close to achieving the nail-biting tension of Streetcar, and Jasmine doesn’t come across nearly as sympathetic as Blanche, but the film has its moments and is a decent modern interpretation of an old classic. Most of the credit for that I give to Cate Blanchette, whose performance is phenomenal.  She is especially good when Jasmine has her breakdown moments and is near hysteria, such as during her breakup with Dwight. Jasmine is a very meaty role and Blanchette carries it off superbly and at times it’s genuinely uncomfortable to watch this woman falling apart.

Unfortunately, where Streetcar is so brilliant in depicting the struggle for power between two strong characters, Blue Jasmine fails completely. There is no Stanley to counter-balance Jasmine, since Ginger has divorced her first husband Auggie (Andrew Dice Clay), and Ginger’s boyfriend Chili is too weak and vulnerable (and no Marlon Brando). But, since that deep struggle between two strong characters is missing, the focus naturally goes more towards Jasmine and the struggles within herself.  Thankfully, the more Blanchette the better.

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