Blue Jasmine Introduces Woody Allen's Newfound Sense of Justice
- Friday, August 23, 2013
Release Date: July 26, 2013 NY/LA; August 23 wide
Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic material, language, and sexual content)
Run Time: 98 min
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K.
In his old age, Woody Allen finally has developed a sense of justice.
A devotee of legendary director Ingmar Bergman’s futile worldview, Allen has made a career out of comedic nihilism. Life is random, justice elusive, and if karma comes around it's more by dumb luck than metaphysical design. Bad things happen to good people, bad people get off scott free, life is meaningless, and there's not much you can really do about it. It's amazing Allen's milked as many laughs over the years as he has, probably because despite his bleaker tendencies he's remained a romantic.
On occasion, though, this has taken on darker, more dramatic forms (how could it not?). Blue Jasmine fits squarely into that vein, and while it won't be ranked among Woody's classics it certainly takes after them, and to potent effect (mirroring, in more than a few ways, his late-70s Bergman homage Interiors). Now, after a lifetime of not believing in God, Allen can't help but play God - both over the characters he clearly despises as well as those he feels deserve a break.
Cate Blanchett (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) plays the titular Jasmine, who, along with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins, Jane Eyre), Woody uses as adopted opposites to respectively mete out justice and mercy. As vital as Ginger is to the story's construct and themes, this is first-and-foremost a Jasmine character-study and showcase for Blanchett. Her powerhouse performance is what the accolade tour de force is reserved for.
To anyone familiar with the Tennessee Williams' classic A Streetcar Named Desire and Blanchett’s heralded turn on Broadway as that play's deeply-troubled Blanche DuBois, it becomes clear that these were primary inspirations for Allen's Jasmine, all-but lifting Blanche wholesale out of Streetcar and putting her into a modern context with a different name. What initially appears to be Allen's requisite neurotic character quickly devolves into an absolute hot mess – the result of a nervous breakdown following a rather dramatic life upheaval for this woman of New York's high society.
Told in non-linear fashion, it opens with Jasmine already in total free-fall as she arrives – post-breakdown – in San Francisco to move in with Ginger. As she feebly looks to resurrect her life, the story flashes back to her pre-breakdown highs when she was married to ultra-rich New York financier Hal (Alec Baldwin, Rock of Ages). As those flashbacks unfold, intercutting with the San Fran present as they inform each other, we begin to see how not only was her marriage an illusion but so was her corrupt husband's entire career.
Intermixed into the melodrama (in both past and present) are Ginger and her now ex-husband Augie (former standup comedian Andrew Dice Clay). In style, taste and temperament, Ginger is the plebeian yang to Jasmine's metropolitan yin, best exemplified by the men they choose (Jasmine's are refined, Ginger's are blue-collar brutes). Yet while Jasmine's surface virtues outshine Ginger’s brash sensibilities, ultimately it's Jasmine's elitist façade that crumbles. Though she's not guilty of her husband's crimes, Jasmine was an enabling accomplice who looked the other way – all for the sake of creature comforts.
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