Streetcar Named Desire Meets Ruth Madoff
BLUE JASMINE (2013/IN THEATERS) Viewers hoping for a light hearted and loving look at San Francisco, in the same spirit as Woody Allen’s last two tributes to world cities (Midnight in Paris, To Rome with Love), are in for a definite change of pace with his latest character study. Appearing in almost every scene, Cate Blanchett delivers a bravura performance in the title role as Jasmine Francis, the wife of ponzi schemer Hal Francis (Alec Baldwin) who is “tapped out” and newly reduced to living with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) in a small San Francisco flat, complete with Ginger’s two pudgy young boys and her latest blue-collar boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). Jasmine has not really adjusted to her new status in life—a serious understatement–as we can see quickly from her matched set of Louis Viutton luggage, as well as her Chanel jacket, silk shirt and long pearls. And of course, she’s flown to San Fran in first class—a fact that blows Ginger over (first class! I thought you had no money) but is something Jasmine would never not consider doing. The movie alternates between the present and the past, with Jasmine remembering her glory days in Park Avenue and the Hamptons. In fact, Jasmine can’t quit talking about those days, no matter where she is or who’s in front of her, and she more than once describes Hal romancing her to the tune of “Blue Moon.” How the mighty are fallen. As it turns out, and true to real life stories, Ginger and her first husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), had invested their once in a lifetime lottery winnings with Hal and thus are now broke (and bitter, in Augie’s case) like so many others. Jasmine’s answer to the pain in her life is to drink Stoli non-stop and pop Xanax alongside. She does take an office job at Chili’s suggestion, working for a nice dentist (played by one of my favorite actors Michael Stuhlbarg who was so great in the Cohen brothers’ “A Serious Man”) but of course this doesn’t last. With luck, Jasmine meets Dwight Westlake (Peter Sarsgaard) a wealthy aspiring politician who talks of two years in Vienna and wedding bells. But it’s all too good to be true and as the movie presses on to its inevitable conclusion, you will be thinking about Blanche Dubois and the end of Tennessee Williams’ masterful play.
P.S. In real life, Ruth Madoff moved from Park Avenue to Brooklyn but had to leave and then lived in Florida in her sister’s condo for two years. Her sister and her husband, in their 70s, lost everything in the Madoff scandal. They now drive airport taxis to make a living. Ruth, according to the 2011 book entitled “Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family,” was more hurt by Bernie’s infidelities than his Ponzi scheme. Sound familiar??