Release Date: Aug. 9, 2013
Running Time: 98 minutes
We can argue all day whether it’s better not to have had money than to have lost money. However, there’s no denying that it can be a painful transition when you must curb expenses after being accustomed to living a certain lifestyle. In Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett’s emotionally damaged and psychologically fragile title character finds herself exchanging her tony Park Avenue penthouse for a bedroom in her sister’s tiny San Francisco apartment. She lost everything when her husband, a Bernie Madoff-like Wall Street swindler (a slick Alec Baldwin) dies in prison under circumstanced Allen refuses to reveal until the end of Blue Jamine. Blanchett’s sister, who is played with rare empathy by Sally Hawkins, does not have reason to help her. Hawkins and ex-husband Andrew Dice Clay—yes, the Diceman—blame Baldwin for losing their savings. But Hawkins takes in Blanchett, and Blanchett repays her kindness by constantly berating her sister’s blue-collar boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale), worrying about finding a upscale job that’s worthy of her former station in life, and having public meltdowns. Blanchett is a woman who’s the verge of another nervous breakdown, but while she’s happy to portray herself as much as a victim as the people Baldwin conned, no one’s buying it, especially Allen. Blue Jasmine is perhaps Allen’s most topical film, and he employs the Madoff scandal as an opportunity to explore what people with money do when confronted with the harsh truth behind the source of their fortune. Do they stick their head in the sand or do they confront what stands before their eyes? Allen slowly reveals the truth about what Blanchett did and did not know about Baldwin over the course of the film. Each relevation forces us to change our perception of Jasmine, and ultimately Allen wants us to sit in judgment of her and decide whether she’s worth our compassion. Blanchett portrays Jasmine as a downtrodden nervous wreck who wants people to believe she’s as pure as Snow White. Blanchett presents us with a woman who is ashamed to rely on the kindness of both friends and strangers she wouldn’t given a second thought to when she had money, and even without money she still happily treats them like dirt when she’s done with them. Jasmine’s pride also ensures she’s her worst enemy, which is never more evident than when she meets and falls for Peter Sarsgaard’s divorced diplomat. At the same time, we know Jasmine’s actions can be partially attributed to her mental illness, but Allen doesn’t use this as an excuse for her behavior. It’s a symptom of the life Jasmine chose to lead with Baldwin. While all eyes are on Blanchett, Blue Jasmine is filled with strong performances both expected and surprising, from Baldwin and Hawkins to the angry but controlled Clay and the impetuous Bobby Cannavale as Hawkins’ overly possessive boyfriend. Allen’s gathered his best ensemble cast since 2000’s Small Time Crooks for his best film since 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
Aired: Aug. 8, 2013
Web site: http://www.sonyclassics.com/bluejasmine/