Playing a brittle New York socialite whose life and mind have both unravelled, Cate Blanchett delivers an astonishing Oscar-winning performance in Woody Allen’s compelling tragicomic drama Blue Jasmine, his A Streetcar Named Desire for the post-financial-crash era.
As the film flashes back and forth between Jasmine’s gilded past and her self-pitying present, Blanchett creates an indelible portrait of a woman who oozes self-delusion, snobbery and a massive sense of entitlement. Yet no matter how appalling we find Jasmine, we can’t help but be touched by her fate.
We’re also touched by the fates of the characters around her, not least Sally Hawkins’ chirpily resilient Ginger, the adoptive sister with whom Jasmine takes refuge in working-class San Francisco after her fall from the dizzying heights of life on Park Avenue with her crooked billionaire husband Hal (Alec Baldwin, brilliantly slimy).
Hawkins gained a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her role and there are striking performances, too, from the actors Allen has cast as the men in Ginger’s life. Controversial stand-up comedian Andrew Dice Clay is surprisingly sympathetic as her ex-husband Augie, Bobby Cannavale bristles with blue-collar indignation as her mechanic boyfriend Chili, and comedian Louis C.K. is Al, the sound engineer she thinks will meet her sniffy sister’s approval.
These are all vivid characters, but it is the magnificent Blanchett who unquestionably dominates the film. A sister under the skin of Blanche DuBois, the tragic heroine of Tennessee Williams’ Streetcar, a role Blanchett has played to great acclaim on stage, she is absolutely mesmerising as a woman who turns a blind eye to the truth until she finally loses her grasp on reality.
Certificate 12. Runtime 94 mins. Director Woody Allen.
Blue Jasmine released on Blu-ray and DVD on Monday 17th February by Warner Bros. Home Video.