In this blogathon, hosted by Christina Wehner and Silver Screenings, it’s all about actors playing more than one role in a single film. This is certainly a fascinating blogathon topic and as such, I’ll be looking at two films, highly appropriate for a blogathon dedicated to duality!

My second and final submission is Jim Jarmusch’s 2003 film Coffee and Cigarettes, which features an 11 1/2 minute segment with Cate Blanchett in dual roles.

Jarmusch’s film is a series of eleven vignettes about people who meet up, drink coffee/tea, smoke cigarettes and talk about such things as the genius of Nikola Tesla, Elvis’ evil twin brother and . . . well, nothing in particular; many segments, including the one featured in this post, simply involve characters attempting to make small talk and idle chatter with each other, despite many of them not having a great deal to say and not necessarily enjoying the company of the other. But of course, most of them are rather fond of drinking coffee and smoking while they talk. The film features the likes of Steve Buscemi, Bill Murray, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan and Jack and Meg White.

In the segment entitled “Cousins”, Cate Blanchett plays both herself and her fictional cousin Shelly. In the hotel where Cate is doing a series of interviews, she takes a few minutes in the lounge to catch up with her estranged cousin. Shelly is clearly less well off than Cate, half-jokingly bringing up the fact that she’s “practically broke” and constantly expressing her envy and bitterness that Cate is doing so well. Through all this, Cate remains civil and politely enquiries about Shelly’s musician boyfriend (who she didn’t know anything about since Shelly mentioned him in a letter that Cate never read – it later turns out that Shelly didn’t actually send the letter in the first place) and gives her a bag of Jo Malone products, which Shelly soon realises is “swag” that Cate got for free, furthering her bitterness.

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Cate Blanchett as . . . Cate Blanchett

It’s great to see Cate Blanchett in duel roles like this (two Cate Blanchetts? Obvious win!) and she has fun with both; as Cate, she is measured, confident and good natured (all the things we expect her to be) and she is a gracious host, politely putting up with her bitter, rude relation who she doesn’t necessarily want to spend too much time with. And as the fictional Shelly, she has fun “slumming it”, slouching down on the sofa, throwing plenty of swear words around and expressing her jealousy so clearly. It is amusing to hear Shelly talking about being mistaken for Cate (even temporarily being let into a club because of it, until they find out she’s not and ask her to leave!) and seeing how Cate is allowed to smoke in the hotel but when she’s gone, Shelly is told she can’t.

Blanchett’s roles are polar opposites; Shelly dresses in a t-shirt and jacket while Cate is clearly more formal, Cate has her recognisable short blonde hair while Blanchett wears a long dark wig to play Shelly and while Cate’s voice is measured and calm, Blanchett gives Shelly a stronger, coarser Australian accent, which she clearly has a lot of fun doing. A certain overhead shot further proves that the characters are opposites; while Cate has her coffee with warm milk, Shelly drinks her coffee dark and stirs it with her finger.

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Cate Blanchett as Shelly

As with much of Coffee and Cigarettes, this is a scene where not much happens and is more about the minutiae of everyday life. With “Cousins” we can recognise this familiar situation, trying to make conversation with someone who you don’t have a lot in common with, with one person who is doing much better than the other. The awkwardness and ridiculousness is shown well here and Blanchett is a great sport throughout.

Interesting fact: Shelly’s boyfriend Lee plays in a band called SQÜRL, which is the name of director Jim Jarmusch’s band. They performed “Funnel of Love”, which was (awesomely) used in the opening of Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive.

In summary, Cate Blanchett has a lot of fun with both roles, both as herself and her slacker cousin. She is a good sport and its great to see her versatility and willingness to poke fun of herself. A fine actress indeed!

Oh, and you can watch the 11 1/2 minute segment HERE. Don’t say I never do anything for ya . . ! 😉

Thanks again to Christina and Silver Screenings – be sure to check out those other entries!

ADDITIONAL: I’ve only just realised that in the scene, Shelly orders a double espresso and at the end, a double tequila – talk about duality! 😀

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