Fri August 23, 2013
One of Woody's best.
Director: Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)
Cast: Cate Blanchett (Hanna), Alec Baldwin (To Rome with Love) Rating:
Runtime: 98 min. by John DeSando
“Anxiety, nightmares, and a nervous breakdown. There’s only so many traumas a person can withstand before they take to the streets and start screaming.” Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) to her sister’s children.
Holy Woodman! Blue Jasmine is not the light-hearted romantic comedy we’ve come to expect from Woody Allen, e.g., Midnight in Paris. Rather, it is more Midnight in San Francisco with the emphasis on the connotation of that late hour, so lyrical in his Paris outing, so dark in Blue. In fact, this superior comedy-drama is as blue as the moody jazz he surrounds us with and the funk in which his protagonist, Jasmine, finds herself.
Ok—there’s some humor, especially in the earlier sequences where director-writer Allen juxtaposes the narcissistic, self-absorbed privileged class, e.g., Jasmine, with the disorganized and not wealthy working class, aka her sister by adoption, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Jasmine has fled to Ginger’s small San Francisco apartment after her husband’s mighty fall.
Not enough praise can be heaped on the Woodman for directing so gracefully the class warfare, with humorous jabs at both sides. Similarly, his use of flashbacks to illuminate the present is masterful. The difference between the sisters crystallizes in their choice of men: Jasmine has married a rich entrepreneur and Bernie-Madoff Ponzi specialist, Hal (Alec Baldwin), who is also a serial womanizer; Ginger is about to live with Chili (Bobby Cannavale), a hot, rough, endearingly honest “loser,” as Jasmine calls him: "You choose losers because that's what you think you deserve." (Jasmine to Ginger) The irony is not lost that Chili is more substantial considering Hal’s larceny and duplicity (losing other people’s money and acting like a philanthropist). Having Sally Hawkins in the cast reminds that Mike Leigh, who directed her Golden Globes winning performance in Happy-Go-Lucky, also directed Secrets and Lies, an apt title for Blue Jasmine: Secrets and lies are what family members perpetrate on each other.
Beyond Allen’s fine ear for class differences and the democratic nature of Nemesis’ punishments is the complex Jasmine, finely played by Blanchett to the tune, I suspect, of an Oscar nomination. Allen and Blanchette have crafted a woman given to luxuries while not paying attention to how they were bought. Her husband’s multiple infidelities are merely metaphor for his larger crimes of self aggrandizement and theft and her neglect as a watchful wife.
No role is tossed off in this poignant melodrama: Hawkins’s Ginger is a little girl finding her way in a much bigger world than she can deftly handle (reminding me of her turn in Happy-Go-Lucky). Bobby Cannavale’s Chili is intensely, insanely in love, and believable. Andrew Dice Clay’s Augie is an authentic working class stiff whom Hal stiffed well. Woody Allen has taken on a new dimension in which he sheds the nerd’s neuroses for real people’s dilemmas. The theater audience may be feeling the blues for Jasmine, but those blues are for them, too.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com