Blue Jasmine vs. A Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams’s play, A Streetcar Named Desire, was an instant success rapidly followed by the 1951 film version by Elia Kazan. Marlon Brando is at his best and the classic has been a favorite of mine for decades. Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine starring Cate Blanchett brought with it great expectations. Which version do you think is better?

In the 1951 film version, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski played the blue-collared brute whose machismo personality demanded loyalty from his wife Stella and refused to submit to the whims of snobby and mysterious phony, Blanche DuBois, his wife’s sister. Vivian Leigh played the fragile Blanche perfectly. “I have always depended on the kindest of strangers.” Poor Blanche. Once a debutante from an exclusive southern heritage, her father wasted the family fortune and she was reduced to beg for help. Without skills, she pursued an ideal husband who would protect and accept her special skills–the ideal accompaniment for a man, the trophy wife.

Homeless, Blanche arrives at her sister’s apartment in New Orleans, disgusted by the meager lives and decrepit setting. The crash from élite lifestyle to poverty-stricken homelessness is a long drop; she must hold on to her wits while keeping her composure.  The contrast from elegant to trashy is what makes the situation interesting.

Blue Jasmine has a similar plot and the point of view from Jasmine is a film showcasing an outstanding talent. Even better than Vivian Leigh. Cate Blanchett captured the fragile, elegant, delusional, sarcastic, loving, self-absorbed Blanche DuBois fantastically. There’s no way she will lose at the Oscars this year!

Caught in a nightmare, what’s a princess to do?

My heart ached for Jasmine who tried to pick herself up and move on from disaster. She tried to improve skills so she could find a job. She muddled through as a receptionist but what she needed was to go back to her earlier, affluent life. The only way she could do that is if she married well.

Karl Malden is the butcher Mitch, a suitor charmed by Leigh’s Blanche, who gives a powerful performance. In Blue Jasmine, a congressman looking for a woman sophisticated enough to match his lifestyle; Blanchett’s Blanche almost catches herself a big fish.

I never thought I’d say Andrew Dice Clay did a good job acting, but there you have it. He was perfect as Auggie, the laborer who epitomized the stereotype and the cast of TV’s crass reality show, Jersey Shore. He listened to Jasmine and her entrepreneur husband, Hal, played by actor Alec Baldwin and lost everything.  It was easy, darn right predictable, to see Baldwin in this role—again—the man in charge who is a schmuck.

While Blue Jasmine  was not a direct replica of A Streetcar Named Desire, it was easy to associate the two if you consider Cate Blanchett played Blanche DuBois successfully in the Sydney traveling production in 2009, (Joel Edgerton was Stanley) and Alec Baldwin played Kowalski on the stage in the 1990s. The plot, the themes, the tragedy are both similar. Woody Allen’s transformation of a steadfast classic was brilliant. So, too, was the direction by marvelous Elia Kazan. He’s one of my favorite directors.

So which is better? I think it boils down to two performances. Marlon Brando vs. Cate Blanchett.

Who is the winner?

47 thoughts on “Blue Jasmine vs. A Streetcar Named Desire

Add yours

  1. Though I’ve yet to see Blue Jamine, yours is the first to relate it to Elia Kazan’s classic adaptation of the Tennessee Williams’ play. Now I need to watch this, even though I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen. Thanks, Cindy!

  2. Sadly I haven’t seen Streetcar Named Desire or Blue Jasmine, but I enjoyed your post and I’m glad I don’t have to pick a winner. It’s a shame they were born in different eras because Marlon vs Cate would be basically everything I would ever want to see in a movie and at the end of the day we’d all win. These two giants would sharpen their excellence on each other.

  3. Haven’t seen Streetcar Named Desire (yes I know, I should get on that even just to gawk at Brando’s hunky-ness). LOVE Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine though, she was superb as always.

  4. I’m yet to see both these movies, after reading this very enjoyable compare and contrast, am even more keen in locating these two flicks. Am a great fan of Tennessee Williams, Woody Allen, Marlon Brando, Vivian Leigh, Elia Kazan and Cate Blanchett (in that order).
    Nice write-up.

    1. Hi Sheryl 🙂 This one is not a replica of Streetcar, but so similar it manages to hold onto the essence of Streetcar while creating an original script and the acting is sublime. I hope you get to see Blue Jasmine soon.

    1. Thanks, Chris! If you are already a fan of Streetcar, you won’t be disappointed with Cate’s performance or Woody Allen’s production. I’d like hear what you thought about Blue Jasmine if you get a chance to watch it. 🙂

  5. Great post. This is the first post that I have read to discuss both films together. — I am a big fan of Elia Kazan. My mother is a huge fan of Tennessee Williams. When “Blue Jasmine” was released, I was informed by a friend that it was essential to view it as a modern day re-working of the Williams play. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to view “Blue Jasmine” yet. I did tell my Mom that she might be interested in watching it.

    1. Hi! Yes, I hope she gets a chance to see it. The acting on Cate Blanchett’s part is par none. It’s a great modern twist of a great play. Thank you for commenting 🙂

  6. Glad I wasn’t the only one to whom the resemblance between these two movies stood out. In nearly every scene (from the parts resembling domestic violence to a world closing in on the central character) I was able to catch something that tied a new connection. I wouldn’t say I greatly enjoyed either of the films, but it was refreshing [albeit disconcerting] to see that some of the current problems concerning gender across different societal positions are very analogous if not exact to those “back in the day” of Streetcar.

    More specifically to the post, I wouldn’t say either Marlon Brando or Cate Blanchett took the spotlight; I am, however, glad that the ties to Streetcar were just slight–Blue Jasmine teetered fairly safely between a balance of some connection to Streetcar, but yet didn’t resemble (thankfully) a re-make or re-interpretation. It feels more like a modern adaptation of the previous film. They focus on different topics (with some overlap on what I believe to be the main topic, gender inequality), and so should not be compared very easily.

    1. Hi there, J! Thanks for your comments–I agree with your position. When I watched Blue Jasmine about a third of the way through the film I saw threads of Streetcar and wondered. By the end of the tragedy, it was obvious to me. I took a look on the internet and sure enough, many others saw the similarities of the two. I agree that it is a modern adaptation of the previous film. Woody’s version is fresh. It worked for me, the fall of Jasmine from her lofty setting to blue collar cellar. That contrast was the best part of the film to watch. That Cate encapsulated the mood-swinging Jasmine effortlessly is why I believe she’s the natural winner at the Oscars today. I had hoped when Jasmine began to fight for herself and become self-reliant she would not need a man to take care of her. In her desperation, she clings to the congressman like she was trying out for a part. It was pitiful. Instead of escorting her to the asylum at the end as in Streetcar, it was colder and sadder to see Jasmine on the park bench alone, talking to the voices in her head. Tragedies are sad, yes, but the purpose of the tragedy is a moral reminder to watch oneself and not succumb to human vice and weakness. Pride cometh before the fall, eh?

      1. I’m glad that she won too. Would love to see her now, after “Blue Jasmine,” perform in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She is a perfect Blanche, hands down.
        I do have a soft spot for her, as you can see, Cindy. I am only critical about people I truly love and admire. She is appearing in several blog entries of mine. I must really like her :)!

  7. During an interview with Cate Blanchett, she claimed that Woody Allen told her he had never seen Street Car! Which she was as surprised about as you and I! I’m not sure if this can be true, due to the obvious similarities and also the casting, which i see you have mentioned, but according to Woody Allen, the similarity between the two stories is coincidental.
    PS. If you wish to find the interview, it was with Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode on their show, Wittertainment, back in September. I’m sure there is a YouTube video and podcast.

    1. Woody Allen is a great director and writer, but I don’t believe him for a second! His intellectualism included all things canonical–there’s no way anyone from his age bracket with or without a degree can claim they haven’t been exposed to Tennessee Williams. Just look at Midnight in Parisas proof! A film devoted to 20s-40s literary greats! Ha!

      1. Haha I certainly find it hard to believe too! Perhaps it was some kind of actor-handling technique to get a certain performance out of Blanchett… or maybe he is just old and forgot. Either way, the end result was a great film!

  8. I have never seen (or heard) of ‘Blue Jasmine’ – how could I have missed it? (Thumps self on the forehead!)

    I love Cate Blanchett. I adore Vivien Leigh in ‘Streetcar’ – she plays madness so convincingly.

    I am going to have to scout around for ‘Blue Jasmine.’ Excellent review.

    1. Hi Kate,
      It was nominated last year at the Oscars and Cate won Best Actress. A Woody Allen film, you should be able to pick it up easily on Netflix or rent it on Amazon. It’s the best female performance I’ve seen in decades. You will Love it!

      1. I am terrible with the Oscars (guess it shows), but this past year I’ve been going to the movies almost weekly! I’ll look for ‘Blue Jasmine’ and then report back!

  9. The association between the two never occurred to me. I will have to see Blue jasmine again to see what I think about your piece. I only saw it once before and must confess i have completely forgotten it.

  10. I just watched it again and thought it a very poor substitute for Streetcar. However, Cate wins over Vivian and Peter is an interesting alternative to Karl. There was no stanley here, though,,,not by a longshot..and i dont just mean no marlon…I mean there was not character approximating Stanley. Neither was there a relationship approximating Stanley and Stella’s. but there was a towering, magnificent Blanch and I wish I could have seen Cate play her live in the real play, not this hodgepodge./

    1. Oh, I agree. Streetcar is tons better. I was thinking of Cate and Marlon — there is no Stanley at all — but I did think it interesting that Allen chose this as his Streetcar revision. Hodgepodge, yes. The play, yes!

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