By Muhammad Muzammal Special to the chronicle
“Blue Jasmine” can be seen as a tragic tale of one woman who is irreperably altered by a world full of greed and money.
The performance by Cate Blanchett is her finest hour, as she portrays the titular Jasmine as a woman who is self-destructive, and in turn abusive and judgmental towards others. It is Woody Allen’s best work in ages, and perhaps the most grounded he has ever been.
The plot and characters are reflective of Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Jasmine has failed financially and moves in to live with her sister, Ginger (a doozy Sally Hawkins). Blanchett’s Jasmine plays out like an intense and neurotic Blanche DuBois, while Ginger’s current boyfriend, Chili (an unpredictable Bobby Cannavale) is like an Italian caricature of Stanley Kowalski.
Jasmine’s life juxtaposes well with her past, chronicling the financial downfall of her husband Hal (a manipulative Alec Baldwin), a Wall Street swindler, modeled directly after Bernie Madoff. As Jasmine begins to adapt to her new lifestyle, the viewer can’t help but begin to feel sympathy.
The most painful scenes involve Jasmine, an invisible character among all others. She is used and abused emotionally by Hal when he keeps various mistresses, and she is treated like an object by her boss, Dr. Flicker (a creepy Michael Stuhlbarg in a small role) who harasses her in the office.
Jasmine begins the film as a seemingly determined and strong-willed character. By the end her façade is torn away to reveal her true internal struggle.
In a film filled with materialistic characters and lifestyles, Jasmine is one of the few that strives to make agenuine human connection. In thinking Hal loves her, Jasmine doesn’t just fall in love with him, but with everything his lifestyle affords her.
After she loses Hal and is betrayed by him, Jasmine can’t help but live in that desirable smokescreen, a dream world Hal created.
Jasmine’s willingness to give herself up to Hal can be summed up in one heartbreaking line: “I’m very trusting.” It is Woody Allen’s allusion to “Streetcar’s” unforgettable line “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Jasmine is much more than another Blanche. She represents the dying center of America, the violation of the rich breed and finally, the yearning to live in the past. “Blue Jasmine” is not a traditional Woody Allen film. It is more concerned with deeply analyzing people through character development than with the scenery of a city.
Above all, “Blue Jasmine” is an excellent exhibition for a writer/director who impressively went outside his comfort zone to create an enduring piece of drama. The film exhibits minimum pop culture references and exerts more attention on the gravity of each character’s tensions and problems. Jasmine, like most of us, has been tricked by the world, but she wishes to go back.
No matter how much she is willing to be recycled by a person, her first love will always remain with her, acting as her identity and her only path towards peace. Like every one of us, no matter how extreme the circumstances, we will always remain believers of that flawed philosophy. It is an unfortunate human characteristic that Woody Allen has mastered exposing in his films.