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!
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • 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.