Blue Jasmine (2013)
Release Date: August 2nd, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Woody Allen Actors: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Andrew Dice Clay, Ali Fedotowsky, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Tammy Blanchard
here’s something to be said for messing with audience expectations. “No Country for Old Men” accomplished this with unfaltering resolve and picked up a Best Picture Oscar for its efforts. But purposefully structuring a film to deprive viewers of a precise beginning, middle, and end is a risky game that doesn’t always pay off. With “Blue Jasmine,” writer/director Woody Allen continues his recent trend of creative editing and innovative presentation that borders dangerously on being artsy for the sake of simply appearing more daringly artistic than other filmmakers. Here, there is no denying Cate Blanchett’s powerhouse performance, an absorbing mix of supporting actors, or the stellar dialogue that unearths the unlikely, hysterical humor amidst dispiriting personal catastrophes. But a blatantly, unsatisfactorily irresolute conclusion can’t be easily ignored.
Uncomplicated white text appears over a solid black background while jazz music plays softly. It’s a typical Woody Allen title sequence, wasting none of his budget on fancy introductions. But the idiosyncratic Jeanette “Jasmine” French (Cate Blanchett) makes up for the plainness by immediately prattling on about her studies in anthropology at BU that were abandoned for a leisurely life of traveling abroad, yoga/Pilates, planning lavish parties, and basking at a multi-million dollar home with her exceedingly wealthy husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) – to a stranger she sat next to on a plane. Jasmine lost her vast fortunes when Hal was arrested for fraud, and must now journey to San Francisco (First Class, of course), to stay with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Ginger’s ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) won $200,000 in a lottery, but misguidedly invested it with Hal, whose real estate schemes were all an elaborate scam. But Ginger has moved on, and although Jasmine was never generous to her before, doesn’t hold a grudge. Jasmine, however, can’t easily acclimate to a new life of poverty; she wants to do something substantial with her life (the thought of menial labor is just embarrassing), but is ill-prepared for real work. Her life of luxury has resulted in a lack of valuable skills, and her shift in accommodating environments proves insensitive and unforgiving. When she meets aspiring politician Dwight Westlake (Peter Sarsgaard), she realizes that her primary shot at regaining some semblance of order depends on her ability to falsify affluence to land another rich lover.
The examination of extreme high class and its anticipated frivolities colliding head on with pauperism (though Jasmine retains her personalized Louis Vuitton luggage) is amusing enough, though the character studies proceed into the judgment of the unambitious and less fortunate, and the recognition of settling for effortless happiness over precarious potential. While Jasmine’s deterioration and unraveling (both financially and mentally) are demonstrated through smoothly integrated flashbacks, and humor is found even in dreary predicaments, aspirations of reinvention elude the pitiable lead. This is troubling, considering she’s a generally unsympathetic character thrust into a commiserating position, then given no genuine opportunity to achieve a revelation. Allen practically states that change is impossible – that the trauma of a “Prince and the Pauper” scenario is too great for the more abundant player to emerge positively transformed (like the more vengeful “Man in the Iron Mask” arrangement).
– Mike Massie