If Woody Allen’s beloved Midnight in Paris was an escapist Euro literary golden age fantasy, his Blue Jasmine is the stark nightmare of America’s “new normal” economic condition…all expressed through his trademark blind narcissism and dark comedy. Contrasting the two is interesting, if not fair because both are recent work. As an established filmmaker working for decades, there can be stages in ones career. From breakout filmmaker to become an established to washed up, it is stages for most successful filmmakers. Lately, Mr. Allen seems to be on a roll sparking a decent comeback aging gracefully with critics and audiences alike (with some exceptions). This is impressive considering his age and that he makes a movie almost every year. With Blue Jasmine, Woody Allen provides comedic angst to serious minded adults eager to look for it.
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Synopsis: After everything in her life falls to pieces, including her marriage to wealthy businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), elegant New York socialite Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) moves into her sister Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) modest apartment in San Francisco to try to pull herself back together again.
In one of the best performances of Cate Blanchett’s career, she provides madness and turbulence to Jasmine who has lost her elegant lifestyle. Her shady businessman husband Hal (played by the always one note asshole Alec Baldwin) was arrested for a Bernie Madoff like scandal. (In one scene at a party when Hal and his friends wander to talk business, one wife jokes, “They always seem to be one step ahead of the Justice Department.”)
The DOJ finally catches up to Hal and he ends up in jail. We witness flashbacks to that simpler time when Jasmine was living the high life and had to deal with her mostly superficial problems. The viewer gets a glimpse at how she was back then and where she is going toward the future. The Jasmine in San Francisco is a deeply troubling woman who cannot stop drinking Stoli vodka martinis or mumbling to herself about the past which haunts her. Jasmine lives with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) which is complicated because Ginger and her ex-husband invested their lottery winnings with Hal and lost everything they won. This is where the economic symbolism comes to play and situations are reversed.
Jasmine takes computer classes to eventually become an interior design decorator while working as a receptionist at a dentists office of Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg in a terrific and awkward performance). Divorced due to the financial woes, Ginger is now dating Augie (Andrew Dice Clay in a career changing role) a trashy guy with the great one liners and the antithesis to Jasmine as the blue collar average Joe who speaks what’s on his mind. He provides a lot of comedy and more depth than the viewer may initially realize or even give credit. The beloved Louis C.K. comes to play in the middle of the movie and is adequate for the 3 to 4 scenes he is in. I’m looking forward to him working with Woody Allen as rumored in a future project.
At the core of Blue Jasmine beyond Cate Blanchett’s stunning, Oscar worthy performance was an elitist attitude and the burdensome class structure. Woody Allen made a calculated decision to have this take place in the San Francisco area and have it centered around how the rich 1% screwed America. Living among the working class, the elegance of San Francisco teases Jasmine at a distance causing her to spin in a deeper madness. It is as if the view of the Bay area is perfection Jasmine can no longer experience. And like a rich and powerful person who was involved in the deterioration of the American dream, she is in blind denial of the involvement or the consequences. It is as if Jasmine herself experienced both of America’s good times and bad. Things may never be the same due to bad choices. And those decisions effect others. She indulges the happier moments in flashbacks dreams of her posh lifestyle of her past.
With such a grim subject matter, I’ll be impressed if Blue Jasmine does half the business as Midnight in Paris especially in an era of “economic recovery” of record high DOW Jones for the investing class among the realty of part time work for most others. Midnight in Paris played in Denver theaters from early June until Christmas. With a protagonist haunted by her past, it is appropriate for Woody Allen latest picture to play through Halloween.
So TMB readers what do you think: was Blue Jasmine one of Woody Allen’s best overall or did Cate Blanchett overshadow everything about it?
2 thoughts on “Lets Talk Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen’s Dark Comedic Glimpse into America’s Economic Condition”
I really enjoyed this film. There was so much to analyze, not just Jasmine, but Ginger as well. This is one of the best Woody Allen movies and I believe it is Cate’s finest performance to date.
Wow, I must be getting old. First of all, Cate Blanchett was OK in this, but best actress? I thought her role was quite limited in this movie. The sad part is that I, too, moved from NYC to SF, but quite a while ago. I also moved from Woody’s side of the city (the Upper West Side, not the upper East). Having been in SF for almost 30 years now, Woody got it wrong. The sister who lived here did not have the SF vibe, nor did her children. Nor did any of the boyfriends. All were more like characters from NYC.
Woody’s best depiction of California was in Sleeper, with the “orb” party. California is about 90% orb and 10% Brooklyn…
One day, Woody should really come out for an extended visit. He might just chill!