Cate Blanchett is the frontrunner to take home the Academy Award for best actress this year, having already won the accolade at the Golden Globes, the Screen Actor’s Guild and the BAFTAs, for her role in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
The film is a loose adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play A Streetcar Named Desire, and Blanchett reprises her role of Blanche in the stage play in her modern incarnate, Jasmine.
Jasmine is a Manhattan socialite in the throes of a nervous breakdown after her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), proves to be a Wall Street villain in the financial crisis. Jasmine flees from Manhattan to San Francisco to seek refuge with her long neglected sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Jasmine’s glittering Manhattan memories are juxtaposed against a grittier San Fran, where the people seem a little more disheveled, a little older, and a little more satisfied with a whole lot less.
The flashbacks are seamless, Allen simultaneously giving us a glimpse of Jasmine’s charmed life while revealing the naiveté necessary for her to sustain such an existence.
Hal’s callousness, his scamming and his infidelity are obvious to an outsider, but Jasmine protects herself by weaving a web of denial. Jasmine’s material trappings add to the buffer; when she is stripped of her possessions, she is left naked and vulnerable.
In Blue Jasmine, Allen attempts to answer the commonly asked question when the kingdoms of the Bernie Madoffs and Jordan Belforts fall, “how can they live with themselves?” The answer to which, disappointingly, Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street came up short.
Perhaps this is the most striking parallel Allen draws with Streetcar; Southern belle Blanche, her inherited wealth built on the backs of slaves, New York Socialite Jasmine, her wealth mined from holes in a deregulated financial system.
Jasmine blames the government for her woes, repeatedly lamenting how they seized all of her possessions and arrested Hal in the street. The only hint of responsibility, however mingled with macabre self-pity, is in a moment when Jasmine explains that when a person is hanged, they die because their neck snaps, not from suffocation. There’s a sense of Jasmine’s disappointment, of her resenting Hal for choosing the easy way out. Suicide is painless, the burden falls to Jasmine to piece a life back together.
While containing Allen’s signature mix of off-beat humour and biting commentary, Blue Jasmine is a tragedy. Jasmine’s fatal flaw that brings about her own demise, and that of those around her, is her innate desire for self-preservation at all costs.
Blanchett is a mesmerising force leading a cleverly cast ensemble. Perhaps Blanchett’s only perceived obstacle to taking out the honour, would be the controversy over Allen’s alleged sexual abuse of his daughter Dylan Farrow, which has been heating up with every accolade Allen has received this awards season.
Given that Allen notoriously avoids awards ceremonies, hopefully Blanchett’s prospects of a win are not overshadowed. Blanchett should be allowed the time to shine, and shine she does.