Review: “Blue Jasmine”

Remember The Purple Rose of Cairo? Mia Farrow played a bored and neglected housewife who seeks escape from her life at the movies. She catches one film in particular multiple times in a row, and herself catches the eye of the lead character in that very movie. He leaps from the screen and sweeps her away…but not for long. *SPOILER ALERT* The character retreats back into his movie, and Mia retreats back into her movie seat and her imagination, with only her dull life to look forward to.

It’s a sweet and sour ending. On one hand, she loses her true love, but on the other, she finds solace in the movies and her mind. On a third hand, her solace comes from a made up place. I love endings like this. In Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, a similar but vastly darker (with some sweetness) conclusion punctuates one of his more dislikable creations.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has lost everything; her upper class New York lifestyle, her good name, her rich (though corrupt) husband, etc. Forced to move in with her upper-lower class sister in San Francisco, Jasmine pushes her way through the exhaustion of dealing with people and the anxiety that slowly chips away at her. Does she deserve all of this? Should we gloat? To both, I say probably.

It’s unclear if Jasmine’s health issues were around earlier in her life or only sprung up from her recent “trauma”, but what is clearly visible is that she makes no effort to make us feel sympathetic. She speaks to everyone in backhanded compliments, oozing with delicious passive aggression. She carries herself with a “poor me” demeanor and a sense of expected respect. How hard it must be to be her friend, and even more difficult to be her sister.

But there is something truly wrong with Jasmine. Every once in awhile, she’ll remember something from her past and have a flashback. When we return to her present, she is seen playing out that moment in real time, holding conversation with only herself. Woody Allen really makes it hard to not feel bad for her, and yet she makes it so easy. He gives her opportunity after opportunity to improve, but her personality and attitude get in the way. Could her snooty behavior just be a symptom of some undiagnosed social disorder? Maybe I’m just desperately trying to find some loophole to like this person?

It’s not every day that a movie presents its protagonist also as its antagonist. Her sister really guts it out and does everything she can for Jasmine. She even gets involved in a contrasting situation with a seemingly nice man. When her world turns upside down, she lands right side up, only for Jasmine to continue giving her b.s. advice that would only drag her down. It must be lonely at the bottom, huh? Maybe that’s where we should feel sorry for her.

Well, regardless of our feelings on Jasmine, there is no happy ending for her. At least, not a traditional one. Think back to The Purple Rose of Cairo, but imagine if it were co-written by Terry Gilliam and Todd Solondz. Or better yet, it’s like the ending to The Aviator. You get such an amazing view from such a serious fall. I love endings like this. I love movies like this.

4 / 5

Originally published in PROPAGANDA New Orleans.

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