Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades
Many film critics (me included) have written about Woody Allen’s new film “Blue Jasmine” being an homage to the Tennessee Williams play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” But here’s my alternate theory: It’s about Darwinism.
In “Blue Jasmine” -- still playing at the Tropic Cinema -- we have two adopted sisters, each with different biological parents. Jasmine was preferred by the new parents because she had “better genes.” Now grown women, the two ersatz siblings have turned out quite different.
Jasmine (née Jeanette) married a rich financier; throws the best parties in New York; owns a lavish house in the Hamptons; and enjoys a life of opulence. On the other hand, her sister Ginger married and divorced a rough-around-the-edges construction worker; lives in a cramped San Francisco apartment; works in a grocery store to support her two unruly kids; and dates a loud, beer-swizzling grease monkey.
Quite a case study for Dr. Allen (né Allan Stewart Konigsberg).
Here he compares differing social classes, the have’s and have-not’s. Rich sister, poor sister. At the same time he contrasts the east-coast west-coast lifestyles of the two sisters.
Cate Blanchett gives an Oscar-worthy performance as Jasmine. And Sally Hawkins delivers a brilliant turn as downscale Ginger.
However, life is the great equalizer. Jasmine’s hinky hubby (Alec Baldwin at his smarmy best) goes to prison for a real estate Ponzi scheme, leaving her destitute, forced to move in with her sister. Ah, the irony.
And while Jasmine accuses her sister of thinking so little of herself that she gets involved with losers, the downfallen socialite chose a loser of her own.
The true difference is found in each sister’s view of life. Jasmine blathers on about her lost social status, and attempts to reclaim it by a romance with an eligible diplomat (Peter Sarsgaard), while Ginger more or less accepts her fate, tied to a working-class ex-husband (Andrew Dice Clay), dating an apish boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale), and having a fling with an unreliable man she meets at a party (Louis C. K.).
In the end, both sisters have proved adept at sabotaging their own lives -- lack of biological connection notwithstanding.
In Woody Allen’s vision of the world, this is not a Blanche DuBois tale about how the mighty has fallen. It’s an existential parable where success is meaningless. The only difference between people is the decimal point in their bank account. Remove that and the importance is in how we deal with it: here, one sister resigning to her mundane existence, the other drifting off into a fragile fantasy world of her own.