Monday, September 16, 2013

Movie with Abe: Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine
Directed by Woody Allen
Released August 23, 2013

Woody Allen movies are easy to identify, if only by their token opening credit sequences and the jovial music that accompanies them. After exhausting his affinity for the physical setting of New York, last visited in 2009’s “Whatever Works,” Allen has been traveling the globe with his movies, stopping in London, Paris, Rome, and now back to the United States to see San Francisco. His characters feel familiar, as does his story, but this is a much darker and bleaker tale than usual for Allen, less appealing and inviting than his previous fare.

Cate Blanchett, a newcomer to Allen’s filmic universe, stars as the title character, who suffered a severe mental breakdown following the revelation of the illegal embezzlement actions of her cheating husband Hal (Alec Baldwin). After losing all of her finances, Jasmine is forced to adjust to her new life living with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), whose handyman husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) has been replaced by a new boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale), who comes just as short of meeting Jasmine’s standards. Not one to express gratitude often, Jasmine also falls prey to her inability to see reality clearly and thus begins to pursue computer classes in the hopes of next earning an interior design degree online.

From the first moment Jasmine appears, seen chatting endlessly with a woman seated next to her on a plane about her long and luxurious life, it is abundantly clear that she is trapped in her own head, and little anyone says can knock any sense of the greater world into her. The story of her downfall is told through frequent flashbacks, as mentions of key names and places trigger traumatic memories of Hal’s lies and each event that led up to his imprisonment. As a result, it’s hard to connect to the events of the continuing present, since the film seems to place just as much value on past events as its main character does.

Blanchett has always been one to immerse herself fully in roles, and there’s no denying her spectacular commitment to playing a person suffering from enormous emotional distress. Hawkins is fun but not quite right for her role, and Clay proves to be an especially odd choice. In minor roles, Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard shine as atypically nice guys who romance the sisters. Allen has come so far from when he used to star in his films, no longer including a comic element and focusing instead on the misery of others with no one around to point out how fatalistically funny it all is. Thirty-six years ago, a young Alvy Singer didn’t see the point of doing homework because the universe was expanding. Now, Allen doesn’t seem to be optimistic about anything, and his latest film is considerably less enjoyable because of that.


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