There is a lot to be said about Woody Allen films, and most people either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Personally, I count myself in the love ‘em group. Even those who love his work can acknowledge that there are good and bad elements in every one of his films. Many of these have to do with the various versions of the Woody Allen character. Usually, the only thing I do not like about his films is the implausibility of the ingénue falling for the Allen character. So when I went to see Blue Jasmine, the element that was immediately noticeable was the LACK of a Woody Allen type character.
Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett, is recovering from a horrible trauma in her life. Her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), pulled a Bernie Madoff and was sent to prison where he eventually died. Saddled with a nervous condition, the result of a breakdown, Jasmine (real name Jeanette) is left with next to nothing in her life. With nowhere else to go, Jasmine accepts an invitation to move in with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who is engaged to a mechanic named Chili (Bobby Cannavale).
At first the move proves difficult for Jasmine as she looks down on Ginger, always commenting on how Ginger should be aspiring for more out of her life. Though they came from the same home, Jasmine’s views on life have been shaped by her lavish life with Hal. Her husband instilled the snobbish attitudes that she still holds tightly. What Hal neglected to share with Jasmine were his numerous indiscretions with both women and other people’s money. The latter of which resulted in Ginger’s former husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) losing a lot of money, and eventually his marriage, to one of Hal’s schemes. Left in a very fragile state, Jasmine must re-examine her life to this point.
Over the course of the film we see Jasmine try to get her life back on track. She gets a job with a creepy dentist, goes to parties and even meets someone new, Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard). Upon their initial meeting, Jasmine makes it seem like she’s got her life together; the audience knows that if he just believes her, then maybe Jasmine finally will. But of course, this kind of attitude will not work. At the same party, Ginger meets Al (Louis C. K.) and starts to believe that maybe Jasmine is right about deserving better than Chili. Of course the rules of all romantic comedies will prove her wrong, as she will learn that her true love was always right in front of her.
While enjoyable for the most part, Blue Jasmine is not without its flaws. There are real problems with the script and the way the dialogue comes across in the film. Do mechanics really call themselves “grease monkeys”? And if Cannavale’s Chili is a San Francisco mechanic why does he speak like he’s from Brooklyn? Also, the whole idea that a woman of Jasmine’s wealth and position cannot use a computer is absurd. However, these issues are relatively minor when compared to Blanchett and Hawkins’ performances. They’re really great. Together they almost overcome the lack of balance a Woody Allen type character would have provided the film. Blue Jasmine is not amongst Woody Allen’s best, but is definitely worth a look.
Good review Jess. Loved how Woody allowed for his cast to do the talking for his screenplay, rather than getting in the way of it all. And with a cast like this, that’s an absolute blessing.
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