Cate Blanchett blooms in Blue Jas­mine

Cate Blanchett blooms in Blue Jas­mine, writes Jake Coyle

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY CONTENTS -

CATE Blanchett’s Syd­ney Theatre Com­pany role as Blanche DuBois stayed with her as she played a mod­ern ver­sion of Ten­nessee Wil­liams’ tragic heroine in Blue Jas­mine.

The Woody Allen film fea­tures Blanchett as Jas­mine, a so­cialite in break­down, dis­traught and de­stroyed by the be­trayal of her Bernie Mad­off-like fi­nancier hus­band (Alec Bald­win).

Like many of the 44-year-old ac­tress’ best per­for­mances, in­clud­ing her Os­car-nom­i­nated turn as El­iz­a­beth I in 1998’s El­iz­a­beth, Jas­mine is a mix of ruth­less­ness and quak­ing vul­ner­a­bil­ity.

The per­for­mance has been called a lock for an Os­car nom­i­na­tion, which would be the sixth for Blanchett, who won her sole Os­car for her role as Katharine Hep­burn in The Avi­a­tor.

Blanchett’s Jas­mine is, as she says, ‘‘a frag­ile, com­bustible cock­tail of rage and guilt and fear’’.

Pen­ni­less in San Fran­cisco, where she’s forced to stay at the work­ing class home of her sis­ter (Sally Hawkins), Jas­mine is a vodka-swill­ing, Xanax­pop­ping mess of self-loathing, de­nial and panic – a woman in free fall who can’t bear to face her­self in the mir­ror.

The com­plex­ity of the Jas­mine role is partly in the film’s A Street­car Named De­sire struc­ture, tog­gling back and forth be­tween be­fore the down­fall (in New York and the Hamp­tons) and af­ter (San Fran­cisco).

Blanchett care­fully charted Jas­mine’s un­rav­el­ling across the flash­backs: ‘‘You don’t want to flat line,’’ she says.

Jas­mine is thus many peo­ple, ra­di­antly el­e­gant for some and con­de­scend­ingly bit­ter to oth­ers.

‘‘Peo­ple talk about ac­tors pre­tend­ing, but you watch peo­ple and a cer­tain per­son walks into a room, that per­son who’s speak­ing to you one minute com­pletely changes,’’ Blanchett says.

While Woody Allen is known for giv­ing his ac­tors wide berth, that such a pow­er­house per­for­mance comes in a late film of his – a pe­riod mostly de­fined by light­ness and in­ter­na­tional set­tings – comes as a stag­ger­ing sur­prise. Though Blanchett im­me­di­ately com­mit­ted af­ter a brief phone call from Allen, she, too, won­dered which di­rec­tion the film might go.

‘‘The chal­lenge was one of tone, par­tic­u­larly when I be­gan to hear what the cast­ing was like,’’ she says, not­ing that co­me­di­ans An­drew Dice Clay and Louis CK gave un­ex­pected, nat­u­ral per­for­mances.

‘‘I did think: Is this more in the line of Ba­nanas or In­te­ri­ors? Which way is it go­ing to swing? He did say to me three weeks in, ‘You know, this is a se­ri­ous movie?’’’

Allen had pro­claimed his in­ter­est to work with Blanchett at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in 2010.

She was the ob­vi­ous choice, he says, for the part he had writ­ten based on a ru­ined New York fam­ily his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, told him about.

(Allen says Mad­off ‘‘never fig­ured re­motely’’ into his think­ing.)

‘‘I needed a great ac­tress and when you think of great ac­tresses in the world, Cate comes into mind im­me­di­ately,’’ Allen says in an email from France, where he’s shoot­ing his next film.

‘‘Cate is one of those peo­ple that are great, she was great be­fore she met me and she will be great af­ter. I re­ally have very lit­tle to say to her.’’

Blanchett knew not to ex­pect a lot of feed­back from Allen, ‘‘so I wanted to come in with enough to of­fer’’, she says.

Blanchett has shot two Ter­rence Mal­ick films and stars in Ge­orge Clooney’s his­tor­i­cal thriller The Mon­u­ments of Men, due out in De­cem­ber.

She’s also signed up for a movie with David Mamet and an­other with Todd Haynes.

‘‘In a way, I’ve come back with re­newed pas­sion for it all,’’ she says.

Blue Jas­mine opens to­day.

Cate Blanchett as New York so­cialite Jas­mine in Blue Jas­mine.

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