‘Blue Jasmine’ — a minority view
Published: Aug 15, 2013
Almost every critic flipped for “Blue Jasmine.” Most of my friends swooned. My wife was moved. I must have seen a different film, because I winced early and often at Woody Allen’s recreation of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
The story in brief: Jasmine has fled New York, where her husband was convicted of financial fraud and she lost both her marriage and his fortune. Now she’s in San Francisco, staying with her sister, who works as a grocery cashier and has a predictable blue-collar boyfriend. It’s hard going for Jasmine until she meets the next man who might take care of her, an attractive widower contemplating a political career. He has an empty house. She claims to be an interior decorator. You know what follows.
Set aside the dialogue that covers the same ground over and over and over (“Your husband was a crook!” “You never had time for us when you were on top!” “They found you talking to yourself on the street!”) and consider just the romance with the politico. Her lover — or a shopkeeper — never suggests that she use her resale number to get a discount. And considering that her fiancé literally casts Jasmine for the role as Campaign Asset, it seemed odd — very, very odd — that he never bothered to Google her.
But I think I understand why otherwise critical people cheer this movie, which is on its way to becoming Allen’s biggest commercial hit. Two words: Cate Blanchett. Always amazing, she outdoes herself here. If you had to read Woody Allen’s screenplay, you’d say it was lazy and cliché-drenched. But Blanchett breathes life into clichés. You actually believe that she has a chance of making a new life for herself. As everyone says, she gets an Academy Award nomination for this role.
Blanchett is so remarkable and Allen’s satiric scenes in the Hamptons and the East Side of Manhattan are so diverting that it’s easy to miss the message of the film: Jasmine never had a chance. She’s lost her money. Her illusions are all she has left. A 1 percenter becomes a 99 percenter. And then she’s ground down again.
A tragic story? In other hands, perhaps. But the way Woody Allen has set it up, you’re too busy sneering at the film’s rich East Siders and Hamptonites to care deeply about the woman they’ve cast off.