Blue Jasmine

Picture this: Gordon Gekko and Blanche Dubois married and living in New York, before Gordon gets nailed for massive financial fraud and before Blanche is penniless and forced to go live with her sister and her sister's boyfriend in San Francisco.

Cate Blanchett as Jasmine and Alec Baldwin as Hal
Cate Blanchett as Jasmine
and Alec Baldwin as Hal
If that sounds crazy, don't laugh, because underneath Woody Allen's latest gem—starring Cate Blanchett as Jasmine and co-starring Alec Baldwin as her sleazy husband, Hal—that's what you've got.

Blanchett—whose portrayal of Blanche (is the similarity in names weird, or what?) in Liv Ullmann's heart-stopping production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which got raves first in Sydney and then in New York (Brooklyn Academy of Music)—is astounding. It's hard to believe that her multifaceted, layered, and heartfelt performance, which accounts for the vast majority of scenes in the film, thanks to Allen's amazing script, could be topped by anything in this or most Oscar seasons.

Cate Blanchett as Jasmine
Cate Blanchett as Jasmine
Commenting recently on the movie, Blanchett said that contrary to the popular interpretation of Jasmine as a stand-in for Blanche, the role reminded her more of playing Shakespeare's Richard II, of "that sense of falling from grace, the delusion, the interface between the role you're given and the one you're longing to inhabit." Blanchett has a point: Jasmine has a claim to a priviledged life where Blanche does not, though leaving the story when we do, it is unclear whether Jasmine's fate is death, like Richard II, or incarceration, like Blanche; regardless, either qualifies as tragedy.

Allen, who should be up for an Oscar or two himself (he has four, three for original screenwriting and one for director, from a total of 23 nominations: 15 as a screenwriter, seven as a director, and once as an actor!) has a stunning track record when it comes to writing parts for actresses with whom he wants to work: 11 nominations and 5 Oscars. Woody muses on this knack here and here.

Sally Hawkins as Ginger and Andrew Dice Clay as Augie
Sally Hawkins as Ginger
and Andrew Dice Clay as Augie
Baldwin's Hal is smooth and entitled, never thinking twice about stealing from friends and family. The rest of the ensemble is inspired as well: Sally Hawkins, as Ginger, Jasmine's sister; Andrew Dice Clay as Augie, Ginger's ex-husband; Bobby Cannavale as Chili, Ginger's fiance and an auto mechanic; and Louis C.K. as Al, Ginger's fling.

But it all comes back to Cate Blanchett—hers is a performance we'll be raving about for a long time.

Bob Bows


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