Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blue Jasmine: Woody Misses the Streetcar

In 1980 I attended a Woody Allen doubleheader in Lisbon. The matinee session was a packed house, a clear indicator of his international popularity in those days. One of the films was Manhattan. I remember laughing loudly during both movies. It was a tad embarrassing as most of the audience were reading the subtitles so my responses were a couple of seconds ahead of the rest.

Allen's latest effort as writer/director, Blue Jasmine, is supposed to be a comedy/drama but the humour passed me by. It's a tale of two sisters. Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is sure that glamorous sister Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) "got the better genes" but the irony bursts out fairly quickly. It parallels the contrast between suitors Chili (Bobby Cannavale) and Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). In fact, the same could be applied to their husbands Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) and Hal (Alec Baldwin). If there is a moral to this story, it might be that in terms of wealth, intellect and personality, more is less in terms of successful relationships.

There are some solid performances. Blanchett is wasted in this role. Using a Lauren Bacall's accent to play a modern version of Streetcar Name Desire's Blanche is a puzzle. Critics have made the links. Perhaps Alec Baldwin role in the movie remake or Cate's stage role flagged their observations.

If Blue Jasmine is an allegory for modern America's dystopia, its dysfunctional society and economy, then it is a very clumsy, in your face, effort. Don't expect much subtlety here.

Variety called it a 'dramedy'. Perhaps the comedy/drama tag is a mistake. Woody brings little humour to the dark side he is painting. It is doubtful that the Portuguese would be chuckling in their droves for this, but my assessment seems to be very much in the minority.

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