Woody Allen Mashes Up Tennessee Williams and the Madoff Scandal

Cate Blanchett Portrays Woman on Verge of Nervous Breakdown

Blanchett Dubois: Cate Blanchett plays a woman brought low by her husband’s financial crimes and misdemeanors in Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine.’
Sony Pictures Classics
Blanchett Dubois: Cate Blanchett plays a woman brought low by her husband’s financial crimes and misdemeanors in Woody Allen’s ‘Blue Jasmine.’

By Ezra Glinter

Published July 25, 2013, issue of July 26, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

While the film alludes to the scandals of the 2008 recession, it also echoes the plot and characters of Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” and its 1951 film adaptation by Elia Kazan. This is not totally surprising: Allen has knowingly mimicked other films before, as with his homage to Federico Fellini’s “8 1/2” in the 1980 movie “Stardust Memories,” and he has referenced “Streetcar” in works like “Sleeper” (1973) and his 1975 play, “God.” In 2009, not long after the Madoff scandal broke, Blanchett also appeared in a production of “Streetcar” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. In this case, the model plays to Allen’s strengths as a storyteller.

“Blue Jasmine” alternates between scenes from the past, set in New York and in the Hamptons, and the present, in San Francisco. But its focus is always on relationships between characters, rather than on the crimes that brought everyone to this sorry pass. There might be a “Bonfire of the Vanities” element in the spectacle of Hal, a “Master of the Universe” come undone, but it’s relatively minor.

Instead we get the mess of interlocking relationships that characterize Allen’s movies. There’s Hal and Jasmine; Jasmine and a beau named Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard); Jasmine and her various suitors (Dr. Flicker; a mechanic named Eddie, played by Max Casella); Ginger and her first husband, Augie (played by a surprisingly grounded Andrew Dice Clay); Ginger and her current boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale, the Marlon Brando character according to the “Streetcar” equation), and Ginger and a philandering sound engineer named Al (Louis C.K.). All this fills out the film with a succession of busy, talky scenes set against the bright San Francisco landscape.

The focus on romance, however, rather than on financial chicanery, makes the movie a little off-balance. Though Jasmine and Hal aren’t exactly lionized, the focus might have tilted more toward the little people. After getting ripped off by Hal, Augie’s marriage to Ginger falls apart and he is forced to seek work on an oil pipeline in Alaska. Yet his part of the story is given scant attention. No one would call this a “feel good” film, but maybe it should have felt a little worse.

Still, you have to admire Allen’s willful disregard for the pathetic fallacy in his portrayal of Jasmine. Unlike “Streetcar,” which takes place in the twilit French Quarter of New Orleans, Jasmine’s collapse happens in full daylight, amid parties and get-togethers, dates and conversations, and all the entanglements of an active life.

This is no quiet, solemn collapse — this is what happens when a person doesn’t fit into the world anymore and can no longer sham, dissemble or deceive. As Jasmine says in one of her unhinged speeches, “There’s only so many traumas a person can withstand before they run out to the street and start screaming.” It may be deserved, but it’s hardly an occasion to rejoice.

Ezra Glinter is the deputy arts editor of the Forward. Follow him on Twitter, @EzraG


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.