Before watching "Blue Jasmine" I had 2 preconceptions.
1 was that Cate Blanchett wouldn't disappoint me, and she didn't. As I've often said, Meryl Streep and Cate Blanchett are the 2 best actresses working today, and 2 of the greatest of all time. But that's also why I thought she wouldn't surprise me.
I was wrong. I was blown away.
"Blue Jasmine" tends to be compared to "A streetcar named Desire"- it's similar enough to remind one of Tennessee Williams's play and different enough to be a Woody Allen film rather than a remake. The film as a whole, I think, doesn't measure up to the 1951 "Streetcar" film in some aspects: the other actors are rather forgettable (except Sally Hawkins), the supporting characters can be inconsistent or simply caricatural, a few details (such as the 2 moments of revelation) seem quite contrived, Ginger's house is unrealistically, unconvincingly spacious, and then the plot doesn't have the dynamic between 2 persons, 2 forces, 2 sets of values (though one may defend the last point by arguing that Woody Allen chooses to focus on Jasmine and present her as causing her own downfall and destroying everything for everybody and that I'm simply biased).
However, with Cate, these things don't matter greatly; and if they do, the film should nevertheless be watched for Cate alone- hers is 1 of the most outstanding, breathtaking and haunting performances in film history. I remember watching the 1995 TV adaptation of "Streetcar", looking at Jessica Lange and seeing, hearing Vivien Leigh. Cate escapes that, though her character Jasmine is not the same as Blanche DuBois, there was still a danger that her performance as Jasmine could be a replica of Vivien's, but she presents a different interpretation, a different approach, a more naturalistic style of acting, and it works beautifully. She mumbles, she rambles, she shakes, she bursts into tears, she stares into space, she looks the other way, above all, we look at her and see Jasmine, not Cate Blanchett, not Blanche DuBois, not Vivien Leigh, we see the madness and despair in her eyes and feel her pain and watch her fall apart. Some actors act only with the face, some also with hands and arms and legs and feet, with movements and gestures and voice- Cate Blanchett in "Blue Jasmine", like Vivien in "Streetcar", acts with every fibre in her body. She's so magnificent and hypnotic that the flaws of the film almost escape notice.
If asked, I cannot compare Cate's performance as Jasmine and that of Vivien as Blanche, it's impossible and both are 2 of the most deserving Oscar winners. But taking the career as a whole I must say that, as much as it pains me to say, Cate Blanchett (as well as Meryl Streep) is greater than Vivien at acting- having wider range, greater versatility, she is unrecognisable.
I may say more, but words are inadequate. Just watch the film.