Cate Blanchett is hypnotically astounding as a fallen icon of wealth, fashion and social standing; fleeing New York, the bastion of her halcyon days, to San Francisco, where she hibernates in a vodka, drug-induced fog with her good-hearted, unsophisticated sister (Sally Hawkins, as “Ginger”, is perfect as the selfless foil, rescuing her hapless sister, “Jasmine”, (Blanchette). Stunning portrayals by both women lend depth and credence to the scenario.
“Blue Jasmine” is director Woody Allen’s finest film in years. Gone is the “Woody Allen” cadence; prevalent in most of his previous protagonists; every actor imbues his or her role with legitimacy, integrity, strength; lacking blatant, caustic irony, Allen has submerged his ego and allows his characters free rein in defining themselves.
Allen, has in the past, loosely mimicked, literary masterpieces; “Hannah and Her Sisters” (Anton Chekhov’s “Three Sisters”), “Match Point” (Theodore Dreiser’s “An American Tragedy”, movie “A Place in the Sun”); “Blue Jasmine” ostensibly parrots Tennessee Williams’ 1947 “A Streetcar Named Desire”. It is 2013, and Jasmine is a metaphor for the beleaguered, stunned residue, wife of a disgraced financial kingmaker (Alex Baldwin, an Allen favorite, was sculpted for the role of “Hal”); a Midas of Wall Street and real estate, felled by his own arrogance, reminiscent of Bernie Madoff.
Streetcar’s “Blanche Du Bois” , a woman doomed by circumstances; choices: evaporated, or a mirage of her imagination, forced to live with her sister “Stella” and her moronic, amoral husband, “Stanley”. “Jasmine” originally, “Jeanette” is a woman of substance, reinvention, she had a plethora of opportunities, but blindly, naively accepts illicit largess; defining herself, not by her wit, but by her purchasing power and her love for a sham of a man; she is tragic, but the fragility of her psyche is cloaked with veracity; she, for all her conceit, is likeable; wearing the last vestiges of her former life; the Chanel jacket, Hermes belt, wither and die as she faces the inevitable.
“Ginger” unlike “Stella” has been married, divorced, has two boys and can hold her own with “Chili” (sensational depiction by Bobby Cannavale) her boyfriend with a fiery temper, (opposite of “Stanley” , a moral- less, feckless jerk), is good, loyal and adores her.
Cate Blanchett’s mesmerizing, unforgettable performance, Shakespearian in pathos, angst, tragedy; grips, entangles the beholder, leaving one breathless with irrepressible reverence and wonder.