Blue Jasmine: Another Rorschach Test

Street CarWoody Allen’s recent films are a scattershot bunch of rorschach tests, and I’ve long given up on caring about any kind of consensus about their quality. I just have to report on what a rare thrill it was to see Blue Jasmine in the same room, BAM’s Harvey Theater, where Cate Blanchett brought her much-loved performance as Blanche in Liv Ullman’s A Streetcar Named Desire – presumably the same theater where Woody saw her, and the wheels started spinning for this script.

Woody’s too much of an institution to go worrying about sixth or seventh drafts, and he’s probably learned that the impeccability you get from refining a script that many times doesn’t win him any more loyalty from viewers. His dialogue written for young, working class people seems like it was outdated a generation ago, and his actors have to play his nonsensical, hairpin turns.

The pleasure I get from all his recent movies is the effortlessness one feels in just how often he almost pulls it off. In this case, Cate Blanchett gorgeously hits all the dramatic marks of Blanche Dubois’ descent, but rewritten as if she were Bernie Madoff’s widow (after the suicide we’re all sort of rooting for), while using that Streetcar story as a framing device to retell the story of her marriage to the great shyster falling apart.

Does the acting save this film more completely than it did in "Vicky Christina Barcelona" because the actors were better cast, or because the romantic plot turns were marginally less silly? Look closer!

Does the acting save this film more completely than it did in “Vicky Christina Barcelona” because the actors were better cast, or because the romantic plot turns were marginally less silly? Look closer!

Critics are probably saying that Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, and (oh my God!) Andrew Dice Clay save Allen’s script – I say “probably” because I haven’t read them, because, one, who cares? And two, any time Allen has a new film out, you only have to read or hear enough about it to know that it doesn’t completely stink to know that it’s worth your evening.

You could also say that Allen’s approach here is more personal and original than, say, trying to reset Streetcar itself as an LIRR Train Named Desire. We get to see Blanche when she owned Belle Reve – when she was already a master of self-deception, and without any excuses for being one. And, it puts her husband’s philandering, and not his financial crimes, front and center in the story of their marriage. She’s a self-absorbed, rich ass-pain, like many Woody has no doubt personally known, who doesn’t exactly deserve her cruel fate, but should have known better – and yet we feel for her.

He’s a genre unto himself. Can we ever tell him he made a substandard Woody Allen movie?

Comments

  1. I thought it was all about Mia Farrow.

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