“Blue Jasmine” Updates “A Streetcar Named Desire”

Just out is the new character-driven film written and directed by Woody AllenBlue Jasmine, starring Cate Blanchett as a New York City woman in crisis who reconnects with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. Watch the trailer here:

MORE ABOUT THE PLOT

Everyone agrees—Blue Jasmine is Allen’s modernized version of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News, offers further info about the plot:

In a series of flashbacks, Jasmine’s investment broker ex-husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) is revealed as a philandering sneak. His Hamptons home and Park Avenue life were paid for via Bernie Madoff-style schemes.

After Hal commits suicide in prison, Jasmine, who’s been wandering the streets, winds up at Ginger’s. But Ginger’s fiancé Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a speak-the-truth mechanic with a rough persona, sees Jasmine for what she is, throwing her even deeper into her mental crisis.

JASMINE’S MENTAL HEALTH: CRITICS WEIGH IN

Rex ReedNew York Observer:

Like Blanche in Streetcar, Jasmine is a mystic combination of purloined innocence and Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis—exasperatingly manipulative but meltingly vulnerable, always waiting for someone to save her…

…Cate Blanchett dominates this film from start to finish. As a mortgaged soul in the gradual stages of a nervous breakdown, she is heartbreaking and hypnotic. From black-belt shopping, window-gazing at Cartier and matinees on Broadway to anxiety, depression and shock treatments, she runs the gamut of psychiatric forensics. Jasmine is blue, all right, but she remains trim and stylish, a real Bergdorf mannequin, until she winds up talking to herself on street corners.

Dana StevensSlate:

Washing down her Xanaxes with a vodka martini (or in a pinch—and Jasmine gets into a lot of pinches—a straight shot of vodka) as she narrates her constant, anxious inner monologue to whoever will listen, Jasmine attains the paradoxical state of being fascinatingly tiresome…

Jasmine’s various pathological behavior patterns are on ample display—in scene after scene, we watch in squirming half-sympathy as she traps herself with self-aggrandizing lies…She disintegrates beautifully before our eyes…

Claudia Puig, USA Today:

She lies incessantly, recasting situations to put herself in the best possible light. She pops fistfuls of Xanax and tosses back vodka to numb her pain.

‘She’s cuckoo, baby,’ says Chili (Bobby Cannavale), Ginger’s boyfriend.

Allen’s well-structured, deftly written story centers on a complex character struggling with mental illness. Blanchett gives Jasmine dimension. She’s entitled, egocentric and unsympathetic. But she’s also a victim of a devious spouse, heartless friends and a culture whose materialistic values have encouraged her vapidity.

SISTERS JASMINE AND GINGER (AND SUPPORTING CHARACTERS)

Andrew O’HehirSalon:

…Ginger and Jasmine are both adopted and not biological sisters, but despite their drastically different personalities, both are stuck in a repeated cycle of domineering and borderline abusive men. Both meet white knights who offer the promise of redemption and are way too good to be true. Ginger has a torrid fling with a sound engineer named Al (comedian Louis C.K.), while Jasmine meets a smooth-talking, well-dressed diplomat named Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), who moves with startling speed toward a marriage proposal and promising Jasmine a future as a politician’s wife, smiling beside the lectern.

Stephanie ZacharekVillage Voice: “Only Andrew Dice Clay, in a small role as Ginger’s Low-Class™ onetime husband, pierces the movie’s highly polished bubble world; he comes off as a person whose veins run with blood rather than some liquefied director’s conceit.”

Richard CorlissTime: “If the film has a vital, complex character, that would be Ginger…This congenital optimist does the best with the scraps life offers her: a sister she has little in common with and, cross your fingers, a kindly new beau, Al (Louis C.K.). Her affair with Al summons Blue Jasmine’s most plausible, affecting scenes.”

SHOULD YOU SEE IT?

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly: “…(T)here’s something cathartic about a contemporary film that’s willing to explore madness as an expression of who a person really is. Blue Jasmine is about what happens when one lost soul meets the cruel real world.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Richly chronicled characters, sharp dialogue and that stupendous centerpiece performance by Cate Blanchett are contributing factors in the best summer movie of 2013 and one of the most memorable Woody Allen movies ever.”

Andrew O’Hehir, Salon:

I haven’t even brought up Tennessee Williams’ ‘Streetcar Named Desire’ or the doomed character of Blanche DuBois (whom Blanchett has played on Broadway), for a couple of reasons. If the specter of Blanche hangs over this whole movie like a combination of San Francisco fog with New Orleans humidity, it’s also the ultimate invidious comparison. On one side, we have one of the greatest works of American drama, whose tormented and self-deluded central character stands for so many inexpressible things about women and sexuality and the painful cost of pretend normalcy and the divided soul of the South. On the other, we have this pallid imitation, a freak show whose alternately compelling and repulsive heroine can’t disguise the fact that it’s a movie by a sour old guy who no longer likes anything or anyone and who also, more damningly, just isn’t interested.

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