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Blue Jasmine by Woody Allen

January 11, 2014


Blue Jasmine is the portrait of a woman in her forties who has recently lost her social status – she was a rich Park Avenue socialite – she has lost it because it didn’t belong to her in the first place, she had no talent, success, family, means or whatever else to put her there, Jasmine was only the wife of a Madoff style crook who had married her when she was still in college, now the crook is dead and his assets have been confiscated by the F.B.I. so in the moment we meet Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) she is flying to California, the place where her only relative – her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) – lives. Though they are not sisters at all – they both have been adopted – it’s easy to realize that they have one thing in common: they are ordinary people destined to live ordinary lives but while Ginger accepts her condition with ease, Jasmine cannot accept her reality – she can’t even accept Jeannette, her real name, she prefers to be Jasmine. Blue Jasmine has nothing to do with Tennessee Williams, this is Cinderella the day after, the prince was not a prince but now Cinderella dislikes the menial chores she was used to, she doesn’t want to live covered in cinders anymore: the only solution coming to her mind is to find another prince.


A natural born comedian Woody Allen has often tried his hand with drama, with Melinda and Melinda he tried to demonstrate that comedy and drama are two faces of the same coin, in the meantime he has directed some excellent dramas – Cassandra’s Dream is the most underrated film of his opus – but with Blue Jasmine it is hard to tell if he is serving fish or meat. The opening scene – Jasmine recounting her life to the unknown old lady on the next seat – has an innate comic feeling, it made me think of Airplane! but as the film proceeds it becomes less clear what Allen is feeding us. In the end Blue Jasmine intends to be a satire of social climbing and financial adventurism, alas celebrities/socialites and working people aren’t the kind of characters that can make a good Woody Allen movie: he dislikes and he has always mocked the first ones while not having nor an interest not a good ear for the seconds. It is a pity since the film is carefully constructed with flashbacks revealing Jasmine’s life in New York and her distaste for Ginger – as a matter of structure and rhythm Allen is in top form here – but too many characters never come to life (her husband played by Alec Baldwin) or – just like Jasmine’s only son – they seem to be there only to prove Allen’s point: accept your place in life and live with it otherwise you will become like our sad Jasmine/Jeannette. Jasmine is the sister of Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) from To Rome with Love, Leopoldo was by far the worst episode of that film, Jasmine has got a whole movie for her but not even Cate Blanchett’s acrobatics can save it.

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