Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blue Jasmine: A Movie Review (Spoiler Alert)

Ocean Beach, San Francisco
August 23rd, 2013 Early Evening

"It's not what a movie is about, it's how it is about it."

~Roger Ebert

Blue Jasmine (Spoiler Alert)

First off, let me say, I read more than one review of Woody Allen's latest film Blue Jasmine, and I did get to see what it took to make the film, on a very small scale, when he filmed in San Francisco last summer, but when it comes to all the reasons as to why I enjoy, and why I don't enjoy a film, the opinions of others, and the location of the film, doesn't usually count toward my decision making. While a gorgeous, exotic background never makes a movie bad, at the same time, it doesn't actually make a movie good either! Bad dialog is BAD DIALOG! Bad acting is BAD ACTING. You can't fix that with scenic beauty. A lot has been made, especially here in the Bay Area, about the fact that Woody Allen didn't feature the usual tourist delights of San Francisco in his movie. It was a bit off putting to a number of local critics that there was no obligatory shot of the Golden Gate Bridge or the San Francisco skyline, and to be honest, I thought it was rather curious of him to deliberately leave out the amazing beauty of San Francisco, until I watched the movie... and it all made sense!

The film was all about Jasmine. Period. Just Jasmine. A more self-absorbed character has never been portrayed in a Woody Allen film! Jasmine only knows of Jasmine's problems. Jasmine's losses. Jasmine's life. Jasmine's needs. The world revolves around Jasmine! Even as she descends into complete and total madness, a hell of her own making, Jasmine floats from one bad decision to another, on the wings of self entitlement and the oblivious desire to avoid seeing anything remotely real going on around her. Jasmine, whose real name was Jeanette, was a creation made in her own mind, in an attempt to rise above the common, as she saw it, and live a life of privilege, because, after all, it was in her genes.

Both Jasmine, and her sister Ginger were adopted. While not biological sisters, Ginger clearly loved her sister, and as such trusted her. When Ginger and her husband Augie, received a decent sized economic windfall, she and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) visit Jasmine and her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) in New York City. During the visit Jasmine suggests rather than Augie start his own business with the money, they should instead invest in one of Hal's up and coming property developments. With their entire future at stake the two give their money to Hal, not realizing that he is beyond shady in his business practices. Eventually, the couple, as well as many other people, lose everything when Hal's house of cards comes down. All the while Jasmine heard, and saw things that made her suspect there might be improprieties, but Jasmine, in true form, blissfully ignores the signs, and goes along her merry way, planning charity events, attending parties in the Hamptons, and living the life of Jasmine.

Jasmine ignored a lot about her life, but the one bit of reality that finally caught up to her was Hal's cheating. Yes, not only did he operate a huge Ponzi scheme, but he bounced from mistress to mistress in his own entitled way. But like all cheaters in life... he eventually got caught! Hal was caught in more ways than one, and what remained was Jasmine. No penthouse apartment. No Jewelry. No upper East Side friends to count on. No money. Nothing. When it became apparent that she couldn't even afford the apartment she had rented in Brooklyn, Jasmine made her way to San Francisco, where she planned to stay with her, now divorced sister Ginger, until she could figure out what to do next. And that is really where it all begins. Jasmine arriving at SFO, after what she describes to Ginger as "the flight was bumpy, the food was awful, and really you'd think in first class... ." It was typical Jasmine, no money, but splurging on a first class flight to San Francisco.

It would turn out to be Jasmine's final descent into madness.

While Jasmine is not someone who provokes any sympathy on the part of the viewer, she has something about her that makes you want to see her pull herself together. To finally face that moment, the epiphany, the turn of the screw, that makes her wake up and realize that she has only been pretending to be Jasmine, but when she is herself, Jeanette, she has all the skills to get through this extreme reversal of fortune and life. You see a spark of this when she decides to move forward by taking some online courses to become an interior decorator, but knowing she would first have to take a computer course to learn about navigating the Internet. It was a reasonable step forward, and I found myself pulling for her. To pay for the computer courses, she takes a job as a receptionist for a sleazy dentist, who does nothing for Jasmine's attempts at improving her life's situation. Sexually assaulting her one day, she is forced to quit the job that was paying for her classes. It was a frustrating and sad turn of events for me to watch.

Adding everything up. Jasmine brought a lot on herself, but there was also a lot thrust upon her that was not her fault. Unfortunately, because of the sheltered bubble of a lifestyle she had led, she had no coping skills at all. And its that lifestyle bubble of privilege and entitlement coupled with no coping skills, other than alcohol and Xanax that led to her obliviousness of what was, and is going on around her. It would not have mattered what city Jasmine fled to, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Miami, she wouldn't have seen anything of beauty, natural or otherwise.

The Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Skyline were completely lost on her. Jasmine couldn't see past her own problems, long enough to see anything. She was too busy living in the past, in both good times and bad. The present simply wasn't there. And speaking as someone who has experienced deep depression, to the point of Anhedonia, I get it! In that situation, you can't see anything of beauty around you, hell, with Anhedonia I couldn't even match up my clothing, let alone appreciate colors, or music, or amazing sights like my beloved Golden Gate Bridge.

But unless you have been in those shoes... it would be lost on you. I applaud Woody Allen for not showing off everything that makes San Francisco so lovely, because it would have ruined the character, if not the movie. The movie was also nearly completely devoid of music, another necessary evil if he wanted to tell an accurate story of deep depression and loss. He put the viewer in Jasmine's shoes, however uncomfortable that might have been. He told the truth about the human condition. He let us experience the layers that make people human. Jasmine may have been the architect of her own despair, but she had all the skills to pull herself back together, she simply didn't know, or trust, that she could do it. She instead, she climbed into yet another delusion, and again lost it all one more time because of her own doings. She only knew one song, and she only knew one life.

The last scene of Blue Jasmine left me in tears. As much as I couldn't stand Jasmine, and as much as it frustrated me to see her throw away chance, after chance, I hated the fact that she just couldn't give herself a break. She couldn't just stop climbing into one bottle or another or one delusion or another. I hated that rather than patting herself on the back for having come up with a truly realistic goal, she gave up in favor of what she perceived as the easy way out, which was in actuality, the life she created in her own mind, and that she lived over a lifetime, but that never really existed anywhere but her own delusions. Jasmine is the character of a lifetime. Harsh. Self-absorbed. Selfish. Complicated. Lost. And finally... Mad.

The cast of this film seemed so odd when I first learned of it, but after seeing the film, I can't imagine anyone else in the roles! I was particularly impressed with Andrew Dice Clay. His role wasn't large, but it was pivotal. Oscar worthy to be sure! Sally Hawkins was terrific as Ginger, and she had a chemistry with Cate Blanchette that made you believe their sisterly relationship, and her chemistry with Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, and Louis C.K. was believable and vivid. There was NO bad performance in this movie in my opinion, there may have been one or two unrealistic things, but I won't talk about them here. I will let you make up your own mind. Bottom lining things, I think I tend to agree with the critics that say this just might be Woody Allen's finest film. I am a huge fan of his work, and I have my favorite Woody Allen movies for different reasons, but this Woody Allen film will probably always be my absolute favorite, as it serves as a stunning reminder about the folly of selfishness and self delusion. It stands out as his deepest character study to date!

"What if nothing else exists and we are all in someone's dream?"

~Woody Allen

My Rating ****1/2 Kernels Of Popcorn

Mood: Reflective

~Me :)

1 comment:

Peter said...

My exact take on how Allen used SF in this movie: smartly. Americans all know its beauty: all of us (except Jasmine) can see it at every turn, and she arrives incapable of breathing the salt air, muttering cliches like "San Francisco is so European" half-heartedly, as if she is more set on escaping than extolling. Allen teases us with quick shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, Pacific Heights, exotic Chinatown, to remind us he's in on the gag, while all his Jasmine sees is defeat and disillusion; the cramped quarters of Ginger's apartment (charming in its own right, actually) as a prison.