Yes, Blue Jasmine has a lot in common with A Streetcar Named Desire. A lost socialite finds her way to the house of her sister and her husband, only to have the husband dislike her and ruin her reputation by revealing dark truths about her past. In both movies, the leading lady is a tour de force, one played by Vivien Leigh, the other by Cate Blanchett who, come award season, should steal the show. She is graceful on the screen, both at the intimate moments as well as the psychotic ones. She is by no means an easy woman to stomach, but we stomach her all right, and by the end, she has earned our sympathy, even if we’ve been trying to fight it.
She plays Jasmine, whose personal life is as wrecked as the remnants of the Titanic. She once lived the life; large beachside mansion, cars, jewelry, designer clothes, Fendi handbags, loving husband. And she never let anyone forget it. All this is told in flashback. Kind of like Memento. It starts out blissful, and then slowly disintegrates into catastrophe. She loses her wealth, her son, her husband, her everything. But she still has just enough to travel first class from New York to San Fran. She reaches the house of her half sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and moves in. She seeks to refurbish herself from the ground up. Like a cleansing. She has dreams of becoming an interior designer because she believes she’s good at matching colours and visualizing spaces, but the course is online, and she sucks at using computers. So she takes up computer class 101, and works as a dentist’s receptionist to pay for it. None of this works out for her. She gets molested by the dentist, which fogs up her concentration for her computer lessons, and the troubles of Ginger’s personal life ruins the peaceful atmosphere of the apartment. It’s a movie where nothing goes right.
It is filled with lies and deceit, and most of the characters in it are not trustworthy. Take Hal (Alec Baldwin, in cool, slimy form). He is a good looking man. Charming, funny, ostensibly kind-hearted. But everything about him is a scam. I don’t think I should tell you too much about him; it’s enough to know that when you see him, you shouldn’t fall for his mojo. Jasmine sure as hell did, and then she ends up in the same boat. Even the Louis C.K. character shows his true colours once he starts dating Ginger. And Ginger doesn’t deserve to be treated unfairly.
The difference between Jasmine and Ginger, though, is that Ginger has a fallback. She might be living a mediocre life, but she has the things that can keep her sane, and happy: Her two sons; Chili, the uber sexy Marlon Brando character played by Bob Cannavale; her apartment; her job. Her life is somewhat stable. Jasmine, on the other hand, has nothing. No security. She’s like a blind child searching for a swaying pinata. She thinks she has a plan, but because of her past, that plan never materialises. She’s stuck in rut that only grips her tighter and tighter. It compounds her hallucinations, and agitates her mood; she gets angry more easily and as the movie progresses, she loses sight of what’s present and what’s past.
She is a complex character, as most of Woody Allen’s lead females are. She is tormented by men and even more so by herself. She is a pathetic person who builds up lies to cover lies. Perhaps many of Allen’s leads aren’t pathetic like Jasmine is, but they all have a resounding social and emotional issue to overcome. The thing about Blue Jasmine that grips you the most is that Jasmine never overcomes hers. She begins the movie disheveled and ends it disheveled. Probably even more so. The movie’s last shot is a good one, because it opens up room for many questions without letting the rest of the movie answer them. Who is Jasmine, really? What part of her exists in reality, and what part is still clinging on to the life she used to have? I have a feeling no one can answer that.
So Blue Jasmine may very well be the 21st Century version of A Streetcar Named Desire, but it doesn’t sit on the same plane. It occupies a space that is filled by Allen’s other movies about romance in the dysfunctional world. And I like it because it has wonderful performances without any room for redemption. It’s an unforgiving look at the empty promises of wealth, and at the consequences of poor marital choices. Money isn’t everything in this world, but it’s fast becoming so. The tragedy of Blue Jasmine is that Jasmine knows this; she just doesn’t want to accept it.
Best Moment | “You can tell a lot about a person by looking into their mouth.”
Worst Moment | Augie popping up just at the right time to spill all of Jasmine’s secrets right in front of Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard).