Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Recent Watches: Blue Jasmine (2013)
I don’t like to comment on the personal life of the people involved with the films I review. I think its tacky and this blog is devoted to movies, not celebrity gossip. Yet it’s become difficult not to talk about “Blue Jasmine” without bringing up Woody Allen’s most recent trouble. I won’t share my opinion about Dylan Farrow’s molestation accusations other then to say I think it’s strange she’s only bringing it up now. Allen has been cranking out films annually for two decades and it’s not like “Blue Jasmine” is the only one of his recent work to receive critical praise. He won an Oscar for “Midnight in Paris” only two years ago, after all. That the controversy has overshadowed the film is disheartening, even more so if it winds up affecting the movie’s Oscar chances. It’s a funny, bittersweet film, solid work from the filmmaker.
On the same level, you can’t help but think of Mia Farrow a little while watching “Blue Jasmine.” The plot follows Jasmine, the widowed wife of a corrupt Wall Street dealer. After loosing her life of riches and comfort, Jasmine has constantly been on the edge of a mental breakdown. The movie opens as she moves in with her sister Ginger, who lives at the opposite end of the economic spectrum, Jasmine attempting to reinvent her life. Both sisters are at turning points of sorts in their lives. The film cuts back and forth between Jasmine’s fraught current life and her previous life as the spoiled wife of a rich man, right before that world crumbled.
“Blue Jasmine” is about another woman as well. Under-appreciated character actress Sally Hawkins plays Jasmine’s put-upon sister Ginger. Ginger is about as far apart from Jasmine as possible, at least at first. She’s slightly vulgar and works a crappy job to take care of her two sons. The difference between the two sisters is most obvious when they constantly point out that they aren’t related blood. However, both women have lousy taste in men. Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie, played by an unrecognizable Andrew Dice Clay, comes off as a bit of a blowhard. Her current boyfriend, the inexplicably named Chilli, is an even bigger mook, basically the grown-up version of a guido. His pathetic attributes come into sharper focus when he storms into the apartment and tears a phone out of the wall in rage. At the same party Jasmine meets her would-be beau, Ginger encounters a charming, sexually vivacious fellow played by a perfectly likable Louise C. K. When that relationship falls apart dramatically, you feel the most for Ginger. Like Jasmine, she’s prone to negative moments, treating her sister like shit at times. At the end, she’s a fallible human being dealt a shitty card by chance.
I’ll admit to being one of those film fans who prefer Allen’s earlier, funnier movies. Since his comedies have always run on neurosis, it’s fine that his drama mine those same emotions for pathos. (I still haven’t made it all the way through “Interiors” though. Sorry.) “Blue Jasmine” is certainly a neurotic movie. Sometimes it simplifies those issues. Jasmine’s mental breakdown manifesting as wandering through the streets, talking to herself, is a bit much, an oversimplification of a complicated issue. Jasmine nearly entering another cushy life as a politician’s wife comes about in a slightly contrived manner. Either way, I admire Allen’s stab at nonlinear storytelling. Cutting back and forth between the past and the present provides a great contrast between the differing attitudes. As the film goes on, we realize there’s really isn’t much difference between Jasmine’s life now and her life then. The cracks were just more well-hidden.