MOVIE REVIEW: Blue Jasmine

How much of the past can we shed, and how so, before we cross that line between lying and just moving on?

It’s true: after over 30 years of watching Woody Allen movies, I have had to limit myself to those that review well. That’s because bad Woody Allen films are perhaps more painful to me than the bad films of other writers and/or directors.

I watched Midnight in Paris, which I liked. I avoided To Rome with Love, , because it was critically savaged. Perhaps if I were seeing as many movies as I did 15 or 16 years ago, I would be more willing to take cinematic risks. Blue Jasmine got mostly great reviews, and understandably so.

But the title Jasmine is a bit difficult to like. She’s this odd mixture of two characters, one real, one fictional. She’s part Ruth Madoff, the wife of Bernie, the ponzi scheme king, who claims that she was oblivious to his financial shenanigans that ruined other people’s lives. She’s also part Blanche DuBois of Tennesse Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, with her suddenly needing the kindness, if not of strangers, than of her estranged, lower class, sister Ginger living a continent away.

Is it just coincidence that the BLANCHE character is played, and brilliantly so, by Cate BLANCHETT? She will likely get some nominations, come awards season. Ginger is played by Sally Hawkins, who I enjoyed in 2010’s Made in Dagenham. She’s also fine here as a character trying to negotiate between her beau, Chili (Bobby Cannevale) and her sister.

Necessarily to the plot, the storyline goes from present to past, no more effectively when Jasmine is in a second-hand guitar shop and discovers the reason for yet another estrangement.

Also very good in their roles are Alec Baldwin (who looks a little too much like that guy from 30 Rock), Peter Sarsgaard, and a great revelation to me, Andrew Dice Clay, a comedian I could not stand in his heyday, whose character may be the moral center of the whole story.

I should say that, at the end of the film, I am sympathetic to Jasmine, just a bit. And worried.

The movie got me to thinking about the process of reinventing oneself. How much of the past can we shed, and how so, before we cross that line between lying and just moving on? Movie stars used to do it all the time; Marion Morrison became JOHN WAYNE, and Norma Jean Baker, MARILYN MONROE, for good or ill. I do have some examples in mind from my circle of acquaintances, but it’s not for me to say.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. i hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “MOVIE REVIEW: Blue Jasmine”

  1. Sounds like an interesting movie.

    I saw a TED talk where a woman gave the advice “Fake it until you become it.” Maybe that works. Maybe we always have that “other self” lurking underneath. Maybe we always have a thousand selves that we just need to tap into.

  2. I haven’t seen this yet, but Woody Allen has always been the little girl with that mid-forehead curl: when he’s good, he’s very, very good, but when he’s bad, you want to throw him into the Bay of Fundy.

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