August 19, 2013 – It has been said that Woody Allen channels Italian director and scriptwriter Federico Fellini when he makes a film. Allen admits to his inspiration, and says that Fellini is among his favorites, if not his favorite director. Both filmmakers are also known for a well-defined blend of fantasy and reality in their work.
Perhaps Allen is a great admirer of playwright Tennessee Williams, as well. “Blue Jasmine” bears a striking similarity to “A Streetcar Named Desire”, and could be considered a modernized version of the story. At minimum, the Allen film pays homage to the playwright’s characterization.
Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine, a fading Park Avenue wife who loses her wealth and everything else when her husband is arrested for fraud and a multitude of other charges, is forced to move in with her working class sister. She shares similar personality traits to Southern belle Blanche DuBois, and Blanchett gives a stunning performance in the role.
There are subtle hints of DuBois throughout the film. I noticed it most when watching the scene with Jasmine speaking to her two nephews while dining at a restaurant. Blanchett plays the troubled drama queen to the hilt, while the two young boys look at her strangely and have no clue what she is talking about.
Jasmine’s younger sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, is Stella-like in the sense that she is mild-mannered, is involved with a man whom Jasmine considers “low class”, and she eventually becomes torn between her sister and her boyfriend. Unlike Stella, Ginger is stronger than Jasmine, and has a firm grip on reality.
Jasmine is blue indeed throughout the film, and has difficulty adapting to her new circumstances. Hardly what you would call likeable, Jasmine’s elitist attitude is difficult to swallow as she talks down to many of the supporting characters in this story, played dead on by Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Skarsgaard, and Bobby Cannavale. Despite her arrogance, I still found myself rooting for her to succeed because she is damaged, frail, and is unable to make it on her own. That is her saving grace.
Allen’s last dark drama, “Match Point” may be considered a cleverer story than “Blue Jasmine”. However, Jasmine is strangely entertaining because of the performances of the cast. It is difficult to be entertained by such sadness, yet it is always enjoyable watching strong performances. The film is also relevant, since we are all familiar with the crimes of Bernie Madoff and its effect on New York society.
While I prefer the comedic Allen to the darker Allen, “Blue Jasmine” is a fine film. I won’t be surprised if there are a few Oscar nominations come January.
Rating: 3.5 – Cate Blanchett’s superb performance, albeit sad, is worth the price of admission alone. No need to see it on the big screen unless like me, you prefer the atmosphere of a dark theater. It will be out on DVD soon enough.
5. Great Movie, see it now
4. Good movie and worth the price of admission
3. It’s OK, but I’d wait for the DVD
2. Proceed with caution
1. Don’t bother