To prepare for the Golden Globes, I wanted to make sure I saw BLUE JASMINE, one of the films that slipped by me this past year that’s garnered praise especially for its lead actress. Mind you, I’m not a big Woody Allen fan. His films have never really connected with me other than his early comedies like SLEEPER and BANANAS or his later, darker fair like CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS and MATCH POINT. I like ANNIE HALL but will never forgive it for beating STAR WARS for best picture (note sarcasm).
BLUE JASMINE falls somewhere in between. Playing like one of his comedies, it’s a pitch-black tale of a woman coming apart at the seams. Not exactly a happy film, I was nonetheless engaged by the story of her comeuppance.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has lived a privileged life though not one of her own construction. She married Hal (Alec Baldwin), a rich New York businessman who has more money than he knows what to do with. But it’s all a façade, as is their shame marriage. The money is embezzled and he has been having an endless string of affairs.
When the world comes crashing down and Hal commits suicide in prison. Jasmine loses touch with reality. Penniless, with no prospects and wanting to start a new life, she moves to San Francisco to impose on her estranged sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Ginger has been living below her means for her entire life and once had the opportunity for a better life before it was absconded by Hal’s misappropriations.
Willing, but ultimately unable to make anything of herself, Jasmine can’t let go of her past which emotionally marks her like a scarlet letter.
What’s fascinating about BLUE JASMINE is that you are meant to feel sympathy for a vapid woman who pretty much gets what she deserves. Ignorance might have been bliss for a while, but she eventually must face the reality of her life and how it has affected others.
Blanchett’s portrayal is stunningly complex and devastating. She has always been amazing but this performance is something above that. She more than inhabits the role and it’s hard not to feel for her. She is completely lost and its hard not to sympathize with that, but we realize that she is the author of her own ruin and even when she finally does do something honorable, it’s for all the wrong reasons.
BLUE JASMINE is worth watching just for Blanchett but it is also a mesmerizing exploration of human nature and serves as a bitter cautionary tale.