In continuing with my Oscar watching endeavor, I had been dying to see Blue Jasmine. Reliable Redbox to the rescue, and that’s what we watched the other night, much to the delight of my two boy roommates! I’m paying for it now with endless streaming of the World Cup, but it was worth it.
I’m a fan of Cate Blanchett, she is an exquisite actress and fascinating to look at. Combined with her recent win for Best Actress (thanks to this film), and my off/on relationship with Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine looked promising and full of hope.
Promising it was, full of hope it was not. Does that make sense? Blue Jasmine is the story of Jasmine (previously Jeannette until she changed it to mask her old boring life), wife of Hal – a rich investment banker. She lives the life of a trophy wife, attending brunches and throwing lavish parties with Hal’s unlimited funding. She is the princess of the Hamptons, until Hal goes to jail for fraud, and Jasmine loses everything and has to move in with her sister, Ginger (a spot-on Sally Hawkins). You can tell right away she is losing it a little, talking to herself as if she is still in the Hamptons talking with her elite lady-friends and zoning out into flashbacks of her previous socialite life all while drinking herself into oblivion. She has no skills to speak of to survive so she takes a computer class while working as a receptionist, in the name of becoming an interior designer. It’s sad to watch but hard to tear yourself away because of how perfect Cate Blanchett is in this role. She is perfectly haughty and unbalanced, even as Jasmine attempts to put her life back together by seducing a diplomat she still sinks even further into a dark place in a theme of utter hopelessness, until at the end she is right back where she started, depressed and alone.
Sounds pretty dark right? It is, but beautifully so. Blanchett takes a privileged, annoying character and turns her into a riveting symbol of an enchanted life that was never deserved. Woody Allen was clearly messing with me the whole movie, making me sympathize with Jasmine one moment and hate her the next. Her performance is insightful and often funny but in an uncomfortable way, the kind of funny that makes you laugh out loud and then quickly look around to see if anyone is judging you for laughing, for example when Jasmine is babysitting her two nephews they’re out for an innocent piece of pizza, when suddenly Jasmine is telling them about “Edison’s medicine” and they stare at her blankly while she chugs her glass of wine.
Something I noticed right off the bat was how similar this film is to A Streetcar Named Desire. As it wore on I realized it wasn’t just similar it was a downright blatant revival – but I wasn’t mad about it. I love Streetcar, it’s a classic that is ok to be revived. Quickly: in the classic, Blanche DuBois is a spoiled Southern belle who arrives to live with her sister and her sisters husband in New Orleans. She lost her magnificent home in Mississippi for unclear reasons, somehow “all the other relatives died” but later we find out its because she is broke and it was foreclosed. She is disdainful of her new living conditions and plummets further and further into manic depression as she tries to adjust to their lifestyle, until she snaps and is taken away.
Sound familiar though?
Something that I consistently like, and that my husband consistently hates, is that this movie is about microscopic moments of life. There is no time taken to develop a character, Allen drops you right in the middle of it all and you’re forced to get your bearings and figure out what’s going on on your own, no comfy accommodations or hand-holding for the viewer. The moments are so small and the time period so constrained, that by the time the film has ended so much has happened and yet so little. The dilemma Zach experiences is that nothing is ever resolved and everything comes full circle in a complete failure of a traditional plot, but I find it fascinating and I love the curious little moments that come from examining life so closely, although in this particular instance I was glad to come back to real life when it was over.