I never want to see Blue Jasmine again. But if you love Woody Allen’s movies, you must see it and if you hate Woody Allen’s movies, you should see it. He’s not in it which is the first indication it’s not a comedy but his acerbic observation of the frailties of all of us run deep and hit hard in his most recent offering to the silver screen. You might not think you would relate to the main character played by Cate Blanchett whose life has crashed after the arrest and subsequent suicide of her high profile conman husband. But don’t be fooled into thinking this plot point is a spoiler for the film, because every relationship she has and every combination of relationships within the movie show the audience a little bit of the human condition covering most classes, socio-economic groups and gender. It calls into question not only family relationships but also the way we define ourselves in old and new friendships.
Cate Blanchett’s character, Jasmine, is scarily vulnerable and damaged throughout the film from start to finish and in a sense there is no resolution at the end for the audience to cling to or to feel a sense of safety. This actress delves deep into the shallowest of human waters and successfully brings home, denial, greed, anger, and betrayal leaving us with a clear sense of vulnerable instability. There is a clear development from the high life she has enjoyed, a life of blind snobbery through to needing the charity of a sister she has hitherto ignored and largely been ashamed of. We see her character trying to make something of herself, and redemption for her denial, her ignorance, her previous choices seems in grasp. Then, at a point where she is offered a new start, it becomes painfully clear that despite the typically Allen use of a chorus of characters, echoing the central themes in the style of a perfect Greek Tragedy, where they continuously remind her of her past throughout the film, she is still in denial and largely in her own version of reality. Her expectations of a new beginning crash and her opportunities for a fulfilling and rewarding relationship evaporate.
Woody Allen allows Jasmine the freedom of talking to herself in monologues which offers not only exposition in plot but also serves to display her depth of despair and ultimately mental illness. There is no happy ending for her character other than she is forced to face the realities of her own actions, the consequences of her own decisions and in that, the film acts as a modern morality tale.
In Blue Jasmine there’s a touch of the Steinbeck about the characters, from a variety of his stories but perhaps it’s simply an incredibly accurate mirror of humanity which never changes no matter what era from which the story is crafted. As I said, I never want to see Blue Jasmine again, but not because there is anything wrong with the film. Far from it. This kind of masterpiece chronicling the mundane through to the exotic, the full to the empty has taken my heart and mind, placed it in the wringer and left me in such a state of deep reflection, I’m almost afraid of what I might see next time. It’s brilliant and the only person it won’t move is someone who is in complete denial about their own life but then as the movie shows us, perhaps that’s more of us than we might think exist.
Text: © JL Nash, 2013
Images: Film stills from Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmin, 2013