Oscar Bait Season: Blue Jasmine
Reviewed by Jordan Goodier
The thing that originally caught my attention about this film was that it’s the latest piece of work by industry legend Woody Allen. Being a master of his craft, it was practically a certainty from the start that Blue Jasmine would be one of 2013’s films that got Allen another few award nominations. You become interested in a film like this, obviously because it looks appealing and entertaining, but also because of the talent involved. But then the reviews started coming out and critics had begun to compare the film to the famous play by Tennessee Williams, “A Streetcar Named Desire”. Blue Jasmine has so many similarities, in terms of the characters and the plot and the themes, to Streetcar, that many critics believe the film to be a modern day adaptation of the play. This caught my interest because I love the play, so I wanted to see if it was true.
Sure enough, Blue Jasmine has an incredibly large amount of similarities to the play and it made for an interesting viewing experience seeing which parts of the film directly linked to things I recognised from the play. Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett as Jasmine Francis, a woman who has recently “lost” her old life in New York and has moved to San Francisco to stay with her sister until she can get herself back on her feet.
The cast are all on top form here, Cate Blanchett giving a great performance as the incredibly complicated, vulnerable, damaged, but often snobbish (and therefore unlikable) Jasmine. The performance has just as many layers as it should be portray such a complicated character, though some of the more interesting aspects and mystery of her character are taken away because the entirety of her back-story is revealed pretty quickly in the film. This is in contrast to Streetcar, where the audience is left fitting together pieces of information and clues themselves as to what exactly happened to Blanche. A fantastic performance nevertheless, but the character does lack the intrigue that surrounds her stage counterpart. The standout performance for me, however, had to be Bobby Cannavale as Chili, Ginger’s fiancé; Ginger being the sister of Jasmine. Chili is essentially Stan Kowalski, but he’s not quite the disgusting character he is in the play. Interestingly, though he does still have many of the characteristics of Kowalski, Chili is a far more sympathetic character and is probably more innocent than Ginger in the film. In Blue Jasmine, they appear to have made Chili a much “better” man than Stan Kowalski in Streetcar; and Bobby Cannavale portrays him with as much skill as the legendary Marlon Brando did. The basic characteristics are still plain to see, but his actions are quite different this time around.
I could go on for quite a while about all the ways in which the various changes from Streetcar to Blue Jasmine effect how you feel about the characters in a very different way than you did in the play, so I’ll simply say that though characters are changed in many ways to make you empathise and sympathise with them more (or hate them more), the fundamental character motivations are kept intact and the story goes very much the same way as the original play. This is an adaptation that’s very respectful to the source material, though it’s interesting because Woody Allen hasn’t acknowledged (as far as I know) that he drew huge inspiration from Streetcar. What’s also interesting is that this film has been nominated for “Best Original Screenplay”, when it’s a borderline adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire, so that’s slightly confusing. Granted, it’s a fantastic screenplay, but it’s interesting to see what is classed as an original screenplay by the academy.
All in all, this is a great drama with a lot of great performances. I’d advise watching it even if you have no knowledge of the play A Streetcar Named Desire, this is a very strong drama by itself. My only gripe with the film would be that the continuous flashbacks throughout the film are a little disorientating; you can forget whereabouts you are in the narrative if you don’t pay enough attention. A strong drama overall, though not the most exciting.