The Pitch: A Woman whose marriage and life is falling apart around her is left to move in with her estranged sister.
—— The Review
Jasmine’s life of European vacations and social gatherings with New York’s frou-frou elite comes to a crashing end when she finds out her husband is cheating on her as well as he is is jailed for committing white colour crimes some of which she was unwittingly connected to. Left with nowhere else to go Jasmine flies to San Francisco to live with her sister whom she has hardly spoken to in the years since she left home.
The culture shock proves extensive when Jasmine, who was used to a world of vaulted ceilings and classy Manhattan living is now in the low rent suburbs of a lived-in crowded apartment with her sister and her sister’s two kids. With the help of liquor and lapses in reality Jasmine has to pick up the pieces of her life and start all over again but, since she has lived without having to work for anything, can she learn to pick herself up from the metaphorical bottom.
Essentially Blue Jasmine can be summed up like this: Perception is Reality.
Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett (Bandits, 2001), has lived the fairy tale life for so long, has been spoiled by her parents for so long, that she might actually be suffering from a mild dose of Affluenza. She has been detached from the real world long enough that the when she arrives at her sister’s flat in San Francisco, insisting that her cab driver haul her luggage for her as if he were a doorman at the Ritz, she is positive that the address to the middle-class apartment must be wrong. That when she enters the apartment taking in the home of a working mother with her knick-knacks and bamboo furniture Jasmine immediately finds solace in an alcohol filled tumbler.
In a sense, Jasmine is self medicating with the alcohol. Her way of coping through the perceived insanity of the situation and, after her sister Ginger arrives (played by Sally Hawkins, Layer Cake, 2004) Jasmine announces she needs a drink and walks around the apartment looking for the alcohol like she has never been there before. At first you wonder if she is acting like she didn't want her sister to know she has dipped in the alcohol already but what writer Woody Allen (What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, 1966) has done is shown some of the early examples of Jasmine’s forced reality. That she will even convince herself she has not drank and had not already walked through the sad apartment.
The mirror story involves the sister Ginger. Jasmine makes the matter quite know that she has little regard for Ginger’s choice in men and cannot understand why she would fall for such ‘losers’. And through these constant barrages of dispersion that we see Ginger, who was happy- if not comfortable- with there situation, now begins to have her own doubts. That watching the game and having beers with her boyfriend Chili, played by Bobby Cannavale (Snakes on a Plane, 2006) is a fine life under the circumstances but under Jasmine’s scornful eye Ginger cannot help but question whether she could do better.
Perhaps Ginger could do better. Perhaps having 2 children to take care of and an absentee ex-husband she is left to lower her expectations for life. That taking a few knocks from otherwise adequate men in the name of security is akin to Jasmine’s flair ups of fantasizing she is still back home with husband Hal (Alex Baldwin Mercury Rising (1998)).
Although Blue Jasmine does not reach the heights of other top Woody Allen films what Allen does is introduce us to a depth to his characters that was missed in the past. He has always been strong in dialogue and character but nuance and subtext was not something you would describe say, Isaac and Tracy in Manhattan, 1979. His characters have always said what they felt and save for hiding a lie about an infidelity or a murder hardly ever went deeper. It is a marvel to see the complexity that Blanchett brings to every moment she is on screen.
Upon ruminating over this film and its place in the Allen oeuvre I am drawn to giving Allen credit that Blue Jasmine is also a statement on California over New York. That most characters in Woody Allen films based in the Big Apple were all steadily going to their Psychiatrists and in turn encouraged to speak their minds the Hollywood nay Californian inhabitants are used to keeping their emotions bottled up. That Ginger and Jasmine were, indeed, only working with the tools they have been given. Put up or shut up. Both create their own excuses for behaviour to better suit their current lifestyle.
Jasmine: Who has no idea how her husband makes money and openly chooses to believe he is doing right by her so as to not break the illusion of her perfect life.
Ginger: Tired and worn down on the bring of buckling under the weight of responsibility convinces herself that she can never rise above her stations so she finds solace in it.
Perhaps Blue Jasmine might feel a bit more busy than it need be. With the amount of secondary characters that appear and never to be seen again and the numerous flashbacks to Jasmine’s former life the story seems to become muddied: Two women, both wanting happiness will do what they can to survive.
—— The Denouement
Should you watch this film? Most definitely. You will have a wonderful time if only for the tremendous performances you will take much with you afterwards.
Should this win the Oscar? Not best film. Cate Blanchett should be a strong contender for Best Actress, and rightly so.
Let’s face it, Woody Allen on his worst day is still a hell of a lot better than most of the films out there and you could do well worse than this film, always strong, always entertaining.
James C- The Cold Open-BC