Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I enjoy “people watching”. There’s always been a fascination about other people’s lives, especially when you have nothing in common with that person yet you already have some predetermined notions about them. “Blue Jasmine” is the most intense version of “people watching” one could ever hope to achieve and a lot of fun. It has a quirky start, but once the pieces begin to fall into place, it’s off-the-wall charms turn into a strong drama with powerful performances.
Jasmine Francis (Blanchett) is in an alcoholic stupor. She downs Xanax like Tic-Tacs, verbally mumbles conversations she’s had in the past without realizing it and her emotional strings are pulled between depression and nervous breakdowns. Her sister, Ginger (Hawkins), has taken her in even though her life is in rebuilding mode. Jasmine has been on a tumble in life since her ex-husband, Hal (Baldwin), was arrested for his Bernie Madoff-esque activities. She’s gone from being the fashionable socialite of New York to tearfully debating her next move in life in San Francisco. The movie cuts back and forth from Jasmine’s previous life with Hal to her present predicaments. Both events unfold in a very smooth motion and the cuts from past to present are flawless.
Jasmine would be a sympathetic character if she wasn’t oblivious to the fact that people are trying to help her out. People around her hope to propel her forward with optimism as she criticizes and critiques everyone else’s life, behaving as if she was still being catered to in a mansion. Oddly enough, the most honest and truthful perspective in the movie comes from Ginger’s grease monkey boyfriend, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). Instead of facing the harsh realities, she lies and manipulates her way through her new surroundings.
The entire cast of this film is at their peak, highlighted by a surprise performance by Andrew Dice Clay. Cate Blanchett perfectly portrays the pretentiously arrogant side of Jasmine as well as fully acting out her quivering moments after a healthy slap of reality. This is the first Woody Allen movie I’ve ever seen so I can’t really say that it’s his best work to-date or deliver any other comments of that nature. I will say that this is one of the more intelligent dramas I’ve seen in recent memory. Awkward scenes have a bit of light humor. Sometimes the laughs are uncomfortable. Even moments of melancholy are punctuated with a bizarre joy. The movie has an analytic feel about all of it’s characters without revealing too many of their motivations. Each character unravels, but only a few towards the end truly come out clean.
I get the sneaking suspicion that by the end of the movie, there will be a divide among audiences. Not straight down the middle, but a small minority that will feel sympathetic to Jasmine. The majority of others, like me, will have a morbid smile in watching things spiral out of control. The movie doesn’t portray her as good or bad, but instead just portrays her as human. She may be arrogant and self-absorbed, but when she’s knocked down she’s still scared and broken. Even though I took a certain glee in her misery, I found myself not wanting too much suffering to head her way. What makes her unlikable, but enjoyable to watch throughout, is the fact that she’s a constant fuel source and igniter for drama. It makes “Blue Jasmine” a rare treat at the theatre and a movie you’re sure to see in multiple awards categories at the end of the year