A Bentley Named Desire: “Blue Jasmine” Guest Review by Adam!

Hey, recyclers! Give a warm welcome to my friend Adam B., who will at some point be starting his own blog on gothic novels. In the meantime, enjoy his great guest review!

blue-jasmine-poster Knowing my love for A Streetcar Named Desire, Anne offered me a tip before I went to see Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine: I shouldn’t go expecting a remake or update of Streetcar or I would miss the movie. The trailer had prepared me for just such an update. Woman with upper-class pretensions and severe alcohol problem moves in with her working-class sister after losing her money and her marbles . . . wait a minute! And what worked me up to near-giddy excitement was that Cate Blanchett would be playing this version’s Blanche. During her run as Blanche in 2009 at the Kennedy Center, I was on a trip with my family in Massachusetts, fantasizing hopelessly about hopping a train to New York to see the show (assuming any tickets were still available).

Anne’s advice was good: Blue Jasmine is neither an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s play nor an update of Elia Kazan’s film, though it does sample many memorable Streetcar elements. In retrospect, I feel like I should have known better. Streetcar is a tragedy about a collapse into insanity and a fierce psychosexual power struggle. Does that sound at all like a Woody Allen movie? Nevertheless, the movie is full of Streetcar analogues, and I feel comfortable talking about his movie with respect to its source.

Aside from the general lack of psychological complexity in Blue Jasmine, the differences of culture and character background set this movie far apart from Streetcar. Blanche DuBois grew up on Belle Rêve (“beautiful dream”) literally and figuratively: her plantation-home childhood swathed her in notions of Southern gentility and inherited class, leaving her unable to cope with her sister’s marriage, her family’s sordid history, and even her own sexuality. The image of the Old South she clings to determines her sense of self. Jasmine, on the other hand, an adopted child, seems almost to have come out of nowhere into a world where money buys class. Whatever identity she might have begun developing in college she aborted when a wealthy man swept her off her feet. Unlike Jay Gatsby, who pursued a money-based identity with vigor and purpose, Jasmine get hers passively, by association. Her attempt to “reinvent” herself as an interior designer is an ersatz gesture of self-definition by someone who never had a self.  The reason she cracked up when her husband’s real estate scam is busted and her lifestyle destroyed is because she had nothing else to fall back upon: that lifestyle was her identity. In a way, this movie is about what could happen to someone like Ruth Madoff.

Blue Jasmine 1

My problem with the movie is not that it isn’t as deep as Streetcar. Woody Allen has made several movies that are psychologically simple but charming and fun. Blue Jasmine’s screenplay is surprisingly bland, especially for him. The dialogue lacks his usual witty touch, and although he has a knack for making conventional characters his own, the fallen socialite Jasmine (as written) remains trite. This is a pity because Jasmine, surrounded by people pestering her about her husband’s disgrace and without any tenable plan for her life, gave him an opportunity to carry that neurosis he writes about so well to its extreme. It took me a little while to realize this, however, because Cate Blanchett’s performance so far transcends the script that I literally squirmed in my seat from the manic tension she generated on screen. Her performance is by far the best part of this movie and the only reason I will probably see it again. If someone eventually does decide to remake Streetcar, there will be no doubt about whom to cast as Blanche.

Blue Jasmine seems like it wants to be a black comedy, but it’s not intelligent enough to work as such. SPOILER ALERT: Allen even misses the opportunity for a satirical ending in which Jasmine gets away with deceiving her new fiancé (this movie’s Mitch) and marries back into her old life with a different husband. Given how Crimes and Misdemeanors unfolds, I was surprised that Allen opted for the Streetcar turn in which a man from Blanche’s past “ties a tin can to the tail of the kite,” leaving Jasmine to Blanche’s fate and the movie to a much less fitting conclusion. I don’t fault Allen for not remaking Streetcar, but it seems like he should have been more judicious about choosing what to keep and what to toss.

This entry was posted in Film and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to A Bentley Named Desire: “Blue Jasmine” Guest Review by Adam!

  1. Pingback: 5 Movies About San Francisco | We Recycle Movies

  2. Hi would you mind stating which blog platform you’re working with?
    I’m looking to start my own blog in the near future but I’m
    having a difficult time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal.
    The reason I ask is because your design seems different then most blogs
    and I’m looking for something completely unique.
    P.S Apologies for being off-topic but I had to ask!

    • Anne Marie says:

      Glad you find the format different! It’s actually not; it’s WordPress. I’m a fan because WordPress is very user friendly, but really it’s up to you!

  3. mobile games says:

    Hey there I am so happy I found your web site, I really found you by mistake, while I
    was browsing on Yahoo for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say
    cheers for a marvelous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I
    also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over
    it all at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also added in your RSS
    feeds, so when I have time I will be back to
    read more, Please do keep up the fantastic job.

  4. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my
    own blog and was curious what all is needed to get set up?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% positive.
    Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  5. В этом что-то есть. Благодарю за информацию, теперь
    я не допущу такой ошибки.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s