‘A Streetcar Named Blue Jasmine’?
Is Woody Allen’s new film ‘Blue Jasmine’, which opened at Tacoma’s Grand Cinema on 8/23, a re-telling of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 play and 1951 movie ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’? After all, a formerly wealthy, sophisticated sister does move in with her less well-off sibling. Although the latter is not married to or living with a Stanley Kowalski, she does have an ex-husband and a current boyfriend who are reminiscent of Williams’ famously brutish boor. The newly arrived sister has no clue as to the realities under which these people live. How did one sibling attain such wealth? How did she fall so far? Should we care enough to shell out the admission fee to see the movie? READ MORE….
‘Blue Jasmine’ is much more than an updated version of ‘Streetcar’, not just moved from New Orleans to San Francisco. It adds more characters and fleshes out their backgrounds. After some scenes, it inserts flashbacks that explain how the characters got to where they are now. There are references to financial scandals that could have been ‘ripped from the headlines’ over the last five years. Questions are raised about loyalty; turning a blind eye to the dubious morals and behavior of those around us as long as one’s own needs are satisfied; feelings of superiority over other people. Is a kiss forced on a woman less harassing if it is by a potential client (who can return her to her former lifestyle) than by an employer of more limited prospects?
Although one might not equate Tennessee Williams with William Shakespeare, the Bard’s plays have been retold many times in many different time periods. Perhaps the most famous parallel is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ choreographed as ‘West Side Story’. Recently, a new version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ played at the Grand Cinema. Characters in today’s Los Angeles spoke Shakespeare’s original lines, which took some getting used to.
‘Blue Jasmine’ is not, however, the paean to San Francisco that Woody Allen has done to Rome, Paris, Barcelona, and New York. There are no glorious, sweeping panoramas of The City By The Bay except for a shot from nearby Marin County. We see only briefly Alcatraz in the distance, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a classic curvy hillside street. Most of the exterior scenes are typically foggy, whereas those in New York are bathed in light, mirroring the differences in the life of the main character.
The acting is superb all around, especially by Cate Blanchett who should receive the Oscar. She is convincing in both her high-society milieu and her working class role. Her personal instability is handled differently, but effectively, in each situation, with appropriate facial and physical expression.
Sally Hawkins is winning as the sister who didn’t get the good genes. Andrew Dice Clay, the stand-up comic who will appear at the Emerald Queen Casino on September 7, was appropriately restrained as her ex-husband, a construction worker of Polish descent in a nod to Kowalski of ‘Streetcar’. Bobby Cannavale, her new boyfriend, plays his typical role. Alec Baldwin is charmingly sleazy. Louis C. K. sheds his filthy cable tv show persona to become a smooth, caring lover one can root for. Viewers are certain Peter Sarsgaard could really turn Jasmine’s life around.
Response has been solid from critics and audiences alike. At the Grand, people who stayed afterwards to discuss the film on Saturday, August 24, rated it 3.8 out of 5. IMDB scored it 7.9 out of 10. Critics polled by Rotten Tomatoes were 90% positive, while 85% of their audience was favorable. But check the schedule at the Grand [www.grandcinema.com] and go see it for yourself.