In 2009, Cate Blanchett received critical praise for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in a stage production of ‘A Streetcar Names Desire’. Four years later, one could consider it the world's greatest dress rehearsal for when Woody Allen comes a-knocking, wanting to cast the role of Jasmine in his new film - a modern retelling of Williams’ famous play.
Not one to be kind to his characters or give an audience the “Hollywood” ending they desire, Allen is perhaps testing the boundaries and thresholds of his constituents here with ‘Blue Jasmine’ - his most human and emotionally dark film to date.
Like ‘Streetcar’, ‘Blue Jasmine’ begins with the arrival of Jasmine (nee Jeanette) to San Francisco to stay with her estranged sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), after her life is rocked by a financial scandal involving her husband (Alec Baldwin). Broke and homeless, Jasmine still manages to fly first class - how though is unbeknownst to her but she does, Louis Vuitton luggage in tow. Frazzled, out of her element, guzzling vodka and talking to herself, it’s not hard to see that things aren’t all there for poor Jasmine. But apparently all that can be fixed as soon as Jasmine learns to use a computer and takes an online course in interior decorating. Who knew? Along for her mental demise is Ginger, her white collar boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a new suitor Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a dentist (Michael Stuhlbarg) and a slew of others.
BLUE JASMINE - TRAILER
Class and social politics are the flavours of the day here and handled with typical Allen finesse, contempt, satire, condescension and humour - okay, maybe not so much on the humour. There are more than a few cringe-worthy moments throughout as both Jasmine and Ginger navigate their relationships with each other and their romantic interests.
The entire cast is sensational, Hawkins and Cannavale especially. This is one of Blanchett’s most exquisite performances to date; she makes the film as she brings to life hidden layers absent from Allen’s script, something only a true actor of Blanchett’s calibre could see and produce. A serial parade of unlikable characters, this ensemble forces you to find an ounce of relation - and therefore empathy - when there seemingly can be none. Talent oozes from each frame, both in plain sight and behind the scenes.
This is one of Blanchett’s most exquisite performances to date.
At the end of the day, ‘Blue Jasmine’ is a tough pill to swallow. This is a tragic tale, and without a cathartic payoff, you’re not quite sure how you’re supposed to feel walking away from the cinema. Those who have struggled with Allen 2.0 over the last decade and thought perhaps he’d finally returned to his glorious comedic roots after ‘Midnight in Paris’ are best to stay away here, unless you're simply happy to appreciate a good piece of art.