Blue Jasmine

Blue_Jasmine1After the collapse of her husband Hal’s real estate business and the disintegration of her life in New York, Jasmine flees to San Francisco to fall on the generosity of her sister, Ginger. Even the best of what Ginger has to offer is a far cry from what Jasmine is accustomed to, and she self-medicates an ongoing nervous breakdown with pills and cocktails while plotting her return to a more acceptable social position.

Narcissistic to a fault, what’s astonishing is not that Jasmine’s every instinct is for self-preservation, but what a limited range of skills she has in that department. A socialite who left university to marry before graduating, Jasmine lurches through life without wealth, stricken with disbelief at the basic obstacles she must overcome. Flashbacks to better days end with her muttering to herself, still playing out events that brought her to the present, as if by doing so she could change them.

Blanchett’s Jasmine is both riveting and repellent.

At once vexing, acerbic, and wrenchingly sad, Blanchett’s Jasmine is both riveting and repellent. She’s almost too tremendous a persona for the film, fitting for a character who believes herself meant for bigger things than the narrative she finds herself occupying. Blanchett is surrounded by an able and nuanced cast, including Sally Hawkins as the long-suffering, sweetly gawky Ginger, Bobby Cannavale as Ginger’s boyfriend Chili, her ex Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) and Alec Baldwin as the bombastic, extravagant Hal.


Comparison to Blanche DuBois is apt, but while Jasmine encounters a string of men she finds both distasteful and animalistic (Ginger’s suitors and her suggestions of blind dates), the strongest Stanley equivalent is Jasmine’s own bent for self-destruction. Strangers, appropriately, aren’t kind to Jasmine; most interactions with the people in her new life are characterized by an agitated discomfort. When wealthy, single Dwight (Peter Saarsgard) chats her up at a party, Jasmine exhales with relief and rallies with a string of glamorous falsehoods to mask her true circumstances. The scene is thrilling, a swift, smooth, calculated re-assembling of the shattered mirror of Jasmine’s self-image. Her reconstruction might seem facile, but Jasmine has always been capable of rejecting and remaking reality; she was originally named Jeannette. “People re-invent themselves,” Jasmine declares. Under the right circumstances, this ability is her strength.

… to laugh at her is like laughing at a wounded animal …

More focused on the painful results of human weakness than its humor, BLUE JASMINE is a departure from Allen’s recent comedic offerings as writer/director. You can’t often laugh with Jasmine, and to laugh at her is like laughing at a wounded animal, yet Allen sparingly deploys comedic moments that glean a genuine humor from desperate and ridiculous circumstances. Optimistic and inebriated, Jasmine lectures Ginger’s sons on how to behave when they eventually (and inevitably, she implies) become wealthy. Accustomed to it for so long, Jasmine believes in good fortune. That hers might prove out of her reach is permanently beyond her shattered comprehension.

BLUE JASMINE screens on Thursday 19 September at 20.00 (Cineworld) and 22.00 (Cambridge Arts Picturehouse).


One thought on “Blue Jasmine”

  1. Saw this yesterday evening and thought I’d comment. It might be useful to say that I am a Woody Allen fan, from Bananas to Hannah and her Sisters and even Match Point (I enjoyed the latter alot). I liked Midnight in Paris less. I’m basically ambivalent about Blue Jasmine. First, it has its good bits: I like the themes of relationships as commodities following 2008’s crash, and thought about the women’s remarks on men and money for a while after watching the film. Cate Blanchett does almost-mad very well, and the other performances are as good, especially that of Sally Hawkins. However, the script is often stilted, the flashback structure is frustrating until the end, and the plot isn’t interesting enough. Also there is an uncertainty of tone, as the general tragedy of the piece was sometimes interrupted by comic ridiculousness (and not in a useful way). I thought it was an actor’s piece, which felt like a play (but was not as good as a Tennessee Williams one).. Interesting in parts but not as good as much of the stuff shown at Cambridge Film Festival by smaller name directors.. 3 stars (?).

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