Blue Jasmine – 4 stars

Woody Allen has remade A Streetcar Named Desire, with Cate Blanchett as Blanche Dubois and Bobby Cannavale as Stanley Kowalski. We find Blanchett, the wife of a Bernie Madoff type (Alec Baldwin), teetering on the edge, having escaped her precipitous fall in New York high society and a resultant breakdown to San Francisco, where her working class sister (Sally Hawkins) lives close to the bone with her two boys. Jasmine sweeps in with an air of condescension, driving a wedge between Hawkins and her rough-edged boyfriend, Cannavale. She comes close to regaining her stature, but her facade soon cracks, with calamitous results.

Blanchett is a lock for best actress. She is at once capricious and deluded, but her pluck is evident, and you find yourself rooting for her to regain a status that was both false and too easily won in the first place. The rest of the cast is excellent, especially Hawkins as the insecure but sweet sister swept up in Jasmine’s fantasies. But also, improbably, Andrew Dice Clay as Hawkins’ embittered ex-husband, his meager fortune having been lost by Jasmine and her crook of a husband.

This is a peculiar Allen film, with few laughs and only a couple of sentimental moments, defined more by a sense of dread as Jasmine keeps picking herself up off the canvas only to suffer another blow, more often than not self-inflicted. Ostensibly a meditation on the pretense of class, and to some dim reviewers, an indictment of Wall Street excess, this is really a film about the fine line between self maintenance and insanity. The movie’s weakness lies in its ambivalence as to what it wants to be, which results in atonality and an awkward and pitiless conclusion.

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