In his 48th feature as writer/director, Woody Allen seems to have been inspired by Tennessee Williams' timeless tale of class, booze and sexual tension, A Streetcar Named Desire. Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, a woman who was born of a different name and led a posh life until everything came crashing down. Financially broke and mentally broken, Jasmine leaves Manhattan and heads to San Francisco to stay with her grocery clerk sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Ginger has not one but two Stanley Kowalski's in her life: Augie, her ex-husband (Andrew Dice Clay), and current hot-tempered fiancé, the too obviously named Chili (Boardwalk Empire's Bobby Cannavale). Yet Blanchett's performance is more than just a reimagining of Blanche DuBois for the 21st century.
Jasmine rings true as an observation of our current economic meltdown more than just a hot and steamy single gal. By far Allen's best drama in years, Blue Jasmine is anchored with a genuinely unhinged lead performance. To lighten the mood, there are some funny moments too (like Louis C.K.!), but what lingers is just how lost Jasmine has become.
For these 5 reasons this is Woody Allen's most compelling flick in a while:
1. Cate Blanchett: Best Actress Front-Runner. Jasmine talks to herself a lot. Sometimes, you'll think she's just rambling on to a fellow passenger on a flight. Blanchett so accurately convinces us of "her own world" that the sudden realization of her instability unnerves. Her fits of mania lead to moments where she just stares off into space–not unlike a captive audience member. (What exactly does she see that's so fascinating?) By all accounts, Jasmine is a horrible snob, yet Blanchett let's us see her disdain for "menial labor" as a defensive move. Her wealthy ways have been ripped away. Worse, she can't stop thinking about that old life…
2. Time Jumps. In Midnight in Paris, Owen Wilson took fanciful trips back in time to the era of Fitzgerald and Hemmingway. Here, things are not so fanciful, as Jasmine keeps thinking back to her life (half the film is flashbacks) when she was married to a man who gave her everything by stealing other people's money. Alec Baldwin makes for quite the schemer as a financial tycoon/criminal.
3. Allen's Best Drama Since Match Point. Even the fiercest of Allen's fans usually name his comedies as the auteur's best work. Crimes and Misdemeanors and more recently, Match Point were excellent more serious-minded studies of male egos. Jasmine also has quite the ego. Do we see a pattern here? Anyone, it seems, can lose everything for essentially, nothing.
4. Louis C.K.'s Hero: Woody Allen. Allen has plans for his next feature to be a buddy flick with himself and Louis. For now, the other comedian who does it all plays a seemingly nice guy who meets Ginger at a party. Since Allen famously never does DVD commentaries maybe Louis will step in for a sure to be unforgettable 90-minute stand-up routine?
5. The Diceman Returneth! Introducing Dice Jr.! Andrew Dice Clay is Ginger's boorish ex, Augie. In a clever move for the former bad dude of comedy, Clay's character acts as kind of Greek chorus for the guilt that Jasmine suffers. Clay's earnest speeches resonate. Ginger's new man is Chili who as played by Cannavale looks and acts like the former comedian's '90s self. Inspired casting.
Will you see a less jokey Woody Allen film? Does another Cate Blanchett role intrigue you? Sound off in the comments!