Summer is now ended, and with it the season of escapist blockbusters we all love. And, truly, it was a more-than-bearable season this year. One of the harbingers of late summer (in Salt Lake, anyway) is the arrival of Woody Allen's annual picture show at the Broadway. This year, it was Blue Jasmine, and a fine way to end summer it was.
Blue Jasmine concerns itself with a woman, Jasmine, played by Cate Blanchett. She has recently divorced her mogul husband (Baldwin) in New York and arrives in San Francisco to live with her less well-to-do sister in an attempt to rebuild her life.
The movie is more than anything else an intense and often poignant psychological portrait. It has as much forward-moving plot as any of Allen's movies ever have, instead taking its time to show us Jasmine as she was and how she has become. And in this, Blanchett shines. She transitions effortlessly from beautiful and carefree to despondent to feigning carelessness to melancholy and fifty others in between. She gives life to Allen's words in a remarkable way.
And his words themselves are spectacular. As much as I love Allen's comedies, I think his writing talent comes through many times better in settings like this. It of course is alive with his trademark wit, but this is tampered with darker emotions and tense drama. His characters here are much deeper, and justly so, because his subject matter is much deeper. A common theme brilliantly satirized in his comedies is this psychosis caused by wealth and isolation from normal society (see especially Sleeper, but also the California parts of Annie Hall and any present-day American other than Gil in Midnight in Paris). Here it is given a different kind of treatment. Jasmine's problems arise essentially from her inability to accept any unpleasant reality. What makes for hilarious moments in other settings translates to sad and ultimately revealing scenes here.
But this isn't just Jasmine's problem. Everyone else seems to be in a situation they'd rather not be in, and is, in one way or another, in some stage of denial. Ultimately none of us are who we pretend to be on the outside. We create an elaborate façade to convince ourselves that everything is how we want it to be, but in looking in the mirror it peels away, and we are left with no more than our unsatisfactory selves.
Blue Jasmine features Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard and Louis CK, and is rated PG-13 for thematic stuff and some swears.
by Chase Harrison