Blue Jasmine ****
One Liner Review:
Powerful, intense, and fascinating the whole way through, this is a movie about what happens when you turn a blind eye to all that’s going on around you.
This is a fascinating black comedy. It’s dark and upsetting and also deep on all the right levels. This is the story of a woman who has had her world crash down all around her and is now just starting to pick up the pieces and formulate a new life. What I like about the movie is that it is as much about the past as it is about the future, and we get lots of flashbacks to what happened and how lies and deceipt found its way to catching up with her and her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin.) There is so much to like about this movie, including the interesting characters who are hardly removed from guilt, even though they believe they are and try to turn the other way instead of addressing their problems. I also love all of the subplots, and romantic interludes. Jasmine’s sister is with three different men in the movie (all at different times of her life), and Jasmine is with four. Each one is handled as its own mini-story and is completely different from the others, making for a wonderfully creative series of events.
Blue Jasmine is a terrific movie. it is dark and upsetting in ways that only a good black comedy or drama can really be. The movie is about a woman named jasmine (Cate Blanchett), who was married to a billionaire Wall Street tycoon, named Hal (Alec Baldwin). Hal was a Bernie Madoff type who took the money of lots of people, pretended to be investing it, and really just kept it for himself or turned it over to other people to make it look like they were making a profit. He got caught and sentenced to prison, where he hung himself, and now Jasmine is out on her own.
The movie does a nice job of giving us both a current story of jasmine in san francisco, and also flashbacks of her living with Hal. We watch as she ignores the signs that hal is doing something illegal and lets it all pass her by, assuming that the good times will last and that the lies will never catch up with them. she doesn’t really know exactly what hal is doing, and that’s only because she doesn’t want to know. jasmine is content to live in luxury and not have the corruption and deciept part on her concience as she turns the other way to avoid seeing the truth. to be fair, she does confront him once about it, but then lets her sweet talk her into believing his stories and just going along.
the present day story is the one where jasmine has come to san francisco to stay with her sister. this is ginger (sally hawkins), who is fantastic in the movie. she’s young and naive and loves her sister to the point where she is able to forgive her for what she did and look at jasmine like a victim of hal’s lies. in a way, she is just like jasmine, putting the blame on someone else and not facing the problems because it is too confrontational and unpleasant.
as we watch the flashbacks of jasmine with hal, we also see scenes of ginger and her then husband, augie (andrew dice clay), coming to visit the extravagant couple in new york. ginger and her husband expect to stay with her sister, but instead, jasmine puts them up in a really nice hotel and pays for the room. she also refuses to spend any time with them, but in a passive and nice way, saying she is too busy and has lots going on, and having her personal driver take ginger and augie around town instead.
as the movie goes on, we learn of what happened between ginger and augie and how jasmine played a hand in it. when augie won the lottery and suddenly had 200 grand to his name, ready to put towards opening up his own business, jasmine presented another idea. she made the proposal that ginger and augie could give the money to hal to invest for them and that he could then double it. ginger supported the idea, trusting her sister, even though it meant that augie wouldn’t get to open up his own business so fast. that was the end of their money.
in the present day story, ginger and augie are no longer together, and we can pretty much gather that it was the loss of the money which caused enough of a rift to separate them. now ginger is with chili, a mechanic (just like augie was), and he is a fascinating character. this guy is played by bobby cannavale, and he is an actor with true comedic presence. the last time i saw this guy was in win win, a few years back, and he was a major part of why that film was so great, with a unique accent and perfect comedic timing. here, in blue jasmine, it’s another black comedy and he again handles his supporting role with great precision.
Ginger is all set to have chili move in with her when jasmine arrives. since her sister now needs a place to stay, ginger puts off having chili move in and instead of spending time with him, starts hanging around jasmine. they try the double date thing, having chili bring a friend along, only jasmine isn’t interested and sees chili and his friend as low class. she then starts convincing ginger of this to the point where ginger leaves chili for another man who she meets at a party that jasmine invited her to.
the ginger story, with this other man, (played by louis c.k.) is terrific, filled with both promise and heartbreak. it’s one of many great subplots in this movie, but it definitely shows jasmine’s influence over her younger sister to the point where ginger is willing to basically change her life in order to measure up to jasmine’s standards. another interesting subplot involves hal’s son, and the discovery of what happened to him after everything went bust with his dad. that ends up revealing another surprise about what really happened between jasmine and hal.
Another storyline that develops in the second half of the film is a new man that jasmine starts dating. including hal and the friend of chilis, there are actually four men who jasmine crosses romantic paths with in this movie, (although she is only interested in two of them). there’s a third guy who she works for, played by the great michael shulberg (so good in a serious man, the great black comedy by the coen brothers.) and then there’s peter saarsgard, as the kind of guy who jasmine really does see a future with, mainly because he’s financially successful and also a politican of great promise and popularity.
blue jasmine is a woody allen movie, and it is one more indication that the man has truly invented himself over the past ten years or so, as one of the smartest and best directors around. all of this started with match point, nearly a decade ago, in 2005. that was allen’s first serious movie and it was dark and intense. after that he had vicky, christina, barcelona. allen was on his way of going from a man who had a successful career with slapstick movies to a director who could be taken seriously with films that were both powerful and artistic. he had some bumps over the recent years (whatever works), but with midnight in paris, he showed that with the right idea, he could work wonders. with blue jasmine, he does it again. this is a director who is now doing the finest work of his career, and blue jasmine is right up there as one of his best.