Cate Blanchett's Golden Globe award, the slew of other well-deserved best picture and best actress nominations, and an equally valid avalanche of other accolades for the Woody Allen film "Blue Jasmine," which is being released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 21, 2014, bodes well for a slew of Oscar nominations. This film also evokes thoughts of the line "I liked your films better when they were funny" from Allen's 1980 semi-autobiographical movie "Stardust Memories."
Allen makes great use of current (and not so current) inspiration to awesomely bring the tale of Jasmine, nee Jeanette, French to life.
The combination of the Tennessee Williams classic "A Streetcar Named Desire" and the lethal "ripped from the headlines" combination of class warfare, intense arrogance/conspicuous consumption among many members of the "one percent," and the cathartic downfall of Bernie Madoff and other billionaire bilkers provide the clay with which Allen molds his best piece in more than a decade.
Determining whether this take on Williams' work is better that than the musical version of this play from "The Simpsons" requires additional thought.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the exceptional trailer for "Jasmine" may help regarding the comparison noted above. The DVD does not include this promo but does have many behind-the-scenes interviews.
The headline "Pride Stays, Even After the Fall" from the New York Times July 25, 2013 review of "Jasmine" perfectly describes Cate Blanchett's spot-on portrayal of the titular character. This exiled Queen of Blissful Ignorance continues to be demanding and unduly critical after the "scorched earth" level downfall of her "master of the universe" husband Hal, played by Alec Baldwin, lowers her to squatting on a cot in the dining room of the San Francisco apartment of her sister Ginger.
Both the abode and Ginger's job as a grocery store cashier are perfectly respectable, but Jasmine acts as if she (rather than Hal) has been sent to prison and that she is forced to have a someone who killed a litter of puppies as a cellmate. This reaction provides some insight regarding how Martha Stewart handled the sentence that she served for her own improper financial activities.
An especially amusing aspect of the elements of Jasmine's personality described above is that she behaves very much like the real-life star of a failed sitcom who marries for money and shares the EXACT same feeling about relatives. Discretion requires not elaborating, but the stories are plentiful and hilarious. (No, it is not Erin Moran of "Joanie Loves Chachi.")
Both Allen and Blanchett do award-worthy jobs making Jasmine highly sympathetic despite her mood swings, habit of concurrently gulping Xanax and high-end vodka at an almost "thank you, Linus" pace, and stopping just short of biting the hand that is almost just as literally feeding her.
We truly feel Jasmine's pain as she takes a menial job and struggles to learn a new skill in response to her harsh new reality; Blanchett does just as well conveying that character's humiliation at both initially having to move to Brooklyn and taking another low-level job that causes intense shame.
The audience further shares Jasmine's joy at the hope of reliving the "lifestyle of the rich and famous" that regular flashbacks portray is infectious despite the underhanded techniques that she uses to reverse her reversal of fortune. The audience feels a corresponding level of sympathy when an eleventh-hour development threatens that happiness.
Allen additionally provides a treat by doing Williams one better in the form of giving the "Jasmine" audience two Stanleys. Andrew Dice Clay plays Ginger's ex-husband Augie, who blames Hal for robbing him of his one big chance. Ginger's current boyfriend Chili, who is played by Bobby Cannavale, is a more pure Stanley. He is louder and hairier than Augie and has higher levels of rage and crudeness.
An equally spectacular aspect of the film is the big surprise at the end that removes any doubt that Jasmine must improve both her judgment and her control of her emotions. Despite this, her status at the end of the film likely does not satisfy anyone.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Jasmine" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.