Monday, January 27, 2014
BLUE JASMINE (2013)
Every year writer/director Woody Allen proffers a new cinematic offering. But which one will we get this time – the romantic fantasy of MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, the bittersweet romance of VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA or the bitter cynicism of MATCH POINT? The answer lies between the last two, but closer to the latter. Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has come untethered. We meet her on a flight from New York to San Francisco in the middle of a monologue with an older female companion. Based on the intimate details revealed we presume this is her mother or other close relation. They part ways, and it becomes clear she has been talking to a stranger. Jasmine is a recovering socialite set adrift from her life of luxury when husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) kills himself in prison after being indicted for securities fraud. For years she feigned ignorance of or turned a blind eye to any wrongdoing while reaping the benefits that came with immense wealth. Now, pleading poverty but with little indication of being sufficiently chastened, Jasmine moves into the cluttered Mission apartment of sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who, along with bitter ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), numbered among Hal’s victims. When she isn’t working as a dentist’s receptionist or taking a class in interior design, Jasmine sulks in her room, drinks, and criticizes Ginger’s crass but well-intentioned fiancé Chili (Bobby Cannavale). Feeling down after losing her job, she grudgingly accepts a party invitation. There she meets lonely diplomat Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), and soon the luxurious life to which she had been accustomed seems possible again. Allen has found his modern day Blanche from Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” in Jasmine. Her denial has become so ingrained, so vital to herself and her self-image that the truth of her husband’s deception shatters her already fragile mind. Blanchett’s tour de force captures this losing struggle so beautifully that our schadenfreude turns to pity. Allen relies too heavily on coincidence, but his film is an apt reflection of our sadly misguided society that often equates material trappings of wealth and privilege with human worth.