Sunday, March 30, 2014

Movie review - Blue Jasmine

Described as a modern updating of A Streetcar Named Desire, Blue Jasmine follows former Manhattan socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) attempts to rebuild her life after the arrest and death of her financier husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). To do this, she has flown to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), and we see Jasmine's shock at having to adjust to Ginger's working-class life and struggle at retaining her sanity.  

The summary should make pretty clear the similarities between Streetcar and Jasmine but there are several big differences, the main one being that while both Blanche du Bois and Jasmine are brought down by the actions of men in their lives, *SPOILER* while Blanche's final breakdown is  due to her rape by Stanley, Jasmine's is due to having to accept that her downfall is due to being the one to report Hal's fraudulent dealings in a fit of pique after he tells her he intends to leave her for a teenage au pair, and that she will not be able to claw back her former position. *END SPOILER* This is interesting in that it creates a character with whom we are trying to sympathise with, despite being quite a despicably arrogant liar.

And I did find myself sympathising with Jasmine even though I didn't like her. This would be due to Blanchett's performance as we see the character struggle to hold onto her aristocratic and haughty air in greatly reduced circumstances, how it affects the people around her in her new and, but also her fear at having to deal with a world in which she has no idea what to do with herself. That said, I find it hard to believe that even a spoiled upper class wife wouldn't know how to use a computer.

Also, while Blanchett's performance is enjoyable, I doubt I would watch this film again because something about it left me cold. Probably because there was no one in the film who was truly sympathetic, which then meant I wasn't really moved emotionally. I found that as much as the film mocked Jasmine's pretensions to maintaining her former status, it also mocked Ginger's by showing her apologising for and being easily swayed by Jasmine. The other working class characters (e.g. Ginger's boyfriend and her former husband) are portrayed as coarse through the way the dress, speak, and present themselves. So exactly who are we supposed to be like? Probably the only truly sympathetic character is Danny, Hal's son and Jasmine's stepson.

Anyway, Blanchett is great and the movie is alright but...missing something.

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