Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is accustomed to a life of luxury – vintage cars, clothing stamped with expensive initials, and an endless flow of vodka – in Woody Allen’s new film Blue Jasmine. However, after an oblivious Jasmine loses all of her financial assets, due to her husband’s (Alec Baldwin) money laundering (followed by prison, and eventual suicide), she is faced with a chance to start over. She’s offered a clean slate, not by choice, to remake herself on the other side of the country (San Francisco) to start anew as her own woman.
The film cuts intermittently between Jasmine’s extravagant lifestyle in New York to her present-day situation in The Bay: stuck in her sister’s home, which in her opinion, is far too blue-collar. The juxtaposition between her past and her present paints Jasmine as a hoity-toity housewife forced into a mid-life crises once the money dries up. Neurosis, alcoholism, and perpetual dissatisfaction are focal points of her character. You don’t know what you got until it’s gone, right? What if it’s all gone and you’re left with no applicable job skills? God forbid, you might have to join the workforce as a dental assistant or a sales clerk in an uptown shoe store! Although a dab overacted, Blanchett portrays the gloomy stepford wife well. Some moments you sympathize with her situation (depression, no sense of worth without material items to display proudly, clinical insanity), but then the other half of the coin rears its ugly head: corruption, extreme narcissism, and pretentiousness.
The entire film is charmingly candid. Blanchett’s Jasmine can be seen as the personification of everything wrong with contemporary society: greedy, vodka-blooded, and mentally ill. Materialism runs through her veins alongside citrus-flavoured Stolichnaya. There’s no attempt to be frugal even when faced with no other choice, which stems from a severe superiority complex based on financial status. Jasmine is an anti-heroine, I felt no sympathy for her misery, but instead, was pleased to see her stumble. A frustrating character to watch unfold because she’s unable to understand the regular gears of life. She’s been spoon-fed throughout most of her entire life, and expects the same after her husband’s death. Even without any substantial cash flow. Nope. Sorry, Jasmine. Sometimes you have to make your way with a little sweat on your brow. You’re going to have to tough it out yourself or marry another rich guy.
Like most of Woody Allen’s films, Blue Jasmine carries a certain European weight. Be it the music or the selective scenery of the San Francisco area, but even though the events take place in California and New York, it holds a distinctive shade of blue and white synonymous with The Mediterranean. Shots of old neighbourhoods, expensive beach villas, and California countryside that could pass as Tuscany are chosen throughout. Even the interior of Ginger’s (Jasmine’s sister played by Sally Hawkins) home emits a rustic feel that can be easily found throughout southern Italy.
Another Allen aspect found in his movie is, of course, comedy. Dry wit and sour charm run deep through this film. Verbal jabs, cringe-worthy interactions, and a whole lot of passive aggressiveness make this movie another standard Woody Allen flick. Aside from the frustrating title character, he succeeds in creating a sense of light-heartedness despite the misery. Like I said, Jasmine is a frustrating bitch, but she’s a relatable bitch too. She’s a reminder that, deep down, we’re all socially inept, greedy, and a little nuts. She’s simply a caricature of that image and it made me smile. Who hasn’t felt so glum that they reached for a bottle at 11 A.M.?
The film sends many messages to the audiences. Stuff you’ve heard your elders for years: don’t take things for granted, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, beer before liquor never sicker. That sort of thing. If it’s too good to be true than it probably is. Reflecting on Jasmine’s state of mind post-financial meltdown brings light to those phrases. To compare Blue Jasmine to Allen’s more recent films would place it in the middle of the pack. Not a masterpiece by any means, but a delightful film nonetheless. It would be a tall order to expect another Midnight in Paris (2011), but this effort still had many bright spots, which meshed with a well-picked cast. A movie definitely worth watching for those who enjoy laughing at other’s misfortune, insanity, and difficulty at coping with regular life.
Blue Jasmine opens in Vancouver on August 2nd.