Faith & Film: Blue Jasmine

“Blue Jasmine” is the latest movie from Woody Allen. Critics have compared it to Tennessee Williams’ classic “Streetcar Named Desire.” Like “Streetcar,” “Blue Jasmine” also tells the story of a woman who is forced to move in with her sister after an unfortunate turn of events.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, who, like Blanche Dubois, is used to the finer things in life. We discover that Jasmine’s marriage to Hal, a wealthy New York financial magnate, has ended amidst the scandal of financial improprieties, as well as marital infidelity. As the movie opens, Jasmine arrives at the modest apartment of her sister, Ginger. Ginger is a divorced woman with two children who works at a grocery store. Jasmine tells Ginger that she is broke, and then admits that she flew first class from New York to San Francisco! Jasmine wants to stay with Ginger until she can get back on her feet. Jasmine is condescending to Ginger, her boyfriend Chili, and pretty much everyone else she meets. Like Blanche, she considers them all to be crude and beneath her.

Also, like Blanche, Jasmine has psychological problems. She drinks too many Vodka martinis and pops Xanax to deal with her anxiety. We also discover that, exacerbated by her failed marriage and financial ruin, Jasmine suffered a psychotic break and was hospitalized, where she received electroshock therapy. She is indeed very fragile and even delusional.

Eventually, Jasmine meets Dwight at a party. Dwight is wealthy, handsome, and treats Jasmine well. Once again, there are parallels to “Streetcar” in the way their relationship progresses.

“Blue Jasmine” is a more serious movie than Allen’s recent efforts, including the popular Oscar winner “Midnight in Paris” two years ago. Jasmine could benefit from some of Midnight’s cleverness and humor. Jasmine also lacks the beautiful poetry of Tennessee Williams.

Critics have praised Blanchett for her performance as Jasmine, for which she is likely to receive an Oscar nomination. However, I think the performance is over the top. Blanchett is certainly an accomplished actress, but this performance could have used more subtlety and nuance. I preferred the performance of Sally Hawkins as Ginger, displaying the patience of Job. Ginger is a good person who cares about the sad plight of her sister. However, even Ginger is pushed to the limit by Jasmine’s blatant disregard for the feelings of others.

As Blanche is led away at the end of Streetcar, the audience feels sympathy for her. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel any sympathy for Jasmine, who, at the end of the film, seems destined for the same outcome as Blanche. Jasmine, too, will need to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Tom Condon, OP