Blue Jasmine Review – A Streetcar Named Regret
Well, after 44 movies and 47 years of career as a filmmaker, one could think that Woody Allen is far too old and too used to his own style to surprise the audience with something different from the usual films. After the unsatisfying To Rome with Love, then, few were the hopes of another memorable picture. Sure, coming back to the States after another European break could have been interpreted as a sign, but Allen’s quality, in the last years, has been far too erratic to promise anything. And, in fact, the NY director goes against all odds, signing with Blue Jasmine a masterpiece with a style and a story nobody really expected.
The story is quite simple. Life, for Jasmine, had always been quite easy: a big apartment in New York City, a house on the sea, a house in the countryside, a house on the lake, branded shoes and clothes, antique furniture, a limo with driver, exotic travels, a respected place in society. All thanks to her wealthy husband, the financial genius Hal Francis. Problem is, Hal is a thief and a cheater, and when FBI finds out, Jasmine loses it all: her husband is arrested, her goods are distrained, her good name is sullied. Penniless and alone, the only solution for Jasmine is to move to San Francisco, to her poor sister Ginger‘s place, waiting for a good occasion to put herself back on her feet. An occasion she is eager to create herself.
Blue Jasmine is a movie that takes quite a distance from the other movies Allen directed in the ’10s: a tragic drama that sometimes surrenders to a bitter, disillusioned comedy, it’s a nauseated and sometimes cruel portrayal of the Western society, especially the American one. The movie is exactly the opposite, stylistically speaking, of Whatever Works: if in the latter every character was Woody Allen, and everyone displayed a part of the director’s character, in Blue Jasmine nobody does; here Allen isn’t represented by any of his protagonists, and just acts as an external narrator, completely unrelated to the facts he’s showing, willingly alien to the class struggle he depicts.
The diamond point of the movie is surely Cate Blanchett‘s extraordinary interpretation, probably her best so far: the actress totally identifies herself with the lunatic and stressed out Jeanette/Jasmine, giving also up make-up in some scenes. She unsettles the audience with a representation of the folly of her character, but she manages to keep her out of any pity’s reach. Spiritual daughter of A Streetcar Named Desire‘s Stella, Jasmine is a Tea-Party-Republican woman who finds herself suddenly a proletarian, and who stubbornly and obtusely insists to blame a reality guilty of not being worthy of her delusions, and who repeats like a mantra the stupid slogans that blame the poor ones for their situation, much to the rich ones’ conscience relief. Sally Hawkins‘s frank and dull Ginger acts as a counterbalance, a poor woman who effortlessly tries to be up to her sister’s expectations, victim of a psychological violence she herself thinks to deserve, who goes along rude and tactless men, but good to the core, who she abandons because they’re not up to Jasmine’s standards.
Allen depicts a world in which the winners are at the top just because of an inborn talent in squashing the weak ones under their feet, and the defeated ones accept with an automatic resignation to bear on their shoulders the weight of thieves and parasites. Everything is then spiced with a good dose of hypocrisy, delusions, lies told to others and to oneself: a path that brings to the only, logical conclusion of a complete and utter folly.