Category Archive for: ‘Go See’

Blue Jasmine — Film Review

Blue Jasmine

Directed by Woody Allen


This film is outstanding.  It is the best Woody Allen film since Annie Hall.  In fact, it may be his best ever.  These are iconic characters whose struggles and disintegration capture the spirit of our own time.  This will become an American classic in the tradition of Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather, The Great Gatsby, Long Day’s Journey into Night.  The story is complex with many strands and subplots.  But it does not become a jungle.  Like a well written symphony, it is balanced, properly paced, and modulated.  The focus is maintained on the two lead characters, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) and her adopted sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins).  Jasmine recalls Blanch in A Streetcar Named Desire, an extremely vulnerable woman whose comfortable affluent life is disintegrating and taking her down with it.

But the film goes beyond being a psychological study of one woman, however representative of her time and class she may be.  This film makes a statement about the vacuousness and bankruptcy of the American money culture, which has come to dominate our increasingly beleaguered middle classes, who anxiously strive for success and status as defined by the accumulation of wealth and its accoutrements.  Jasmine’s husband, Hal, (Alec Baldwin) serves as an allusion to Bernie Madoff and the rapaciousness of the Wall Street bankers and executives that brought about the recent financial malaise that is still afflicting much of the country.  His crimes and dishonesty destroyed not only himself and his wife, Jasmine, but also took away the hopes and dreams and opportunities of numerous of lower class people with whom he came in contact, such as, Ginger and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay).  This illustrates the impact that the crimes of the banks and finance world have had on everyday working people across America: dimming their prospects and creating difficulties and obstacles and burdens on their lives that will weigh them down for many years.

The central theme of the film is the arduousness of the descent that many Americans are now experiencing in their lifestyle, standard of living, and sense of well being: the emotional toll this is taking on individuals, personal relationships, and families.  A wide swath of the American population knows that life used to be better in America — much better — not only as a statistical abstraction, but in their own particular circumstances.  And there is a connection between that general degradation in the quality of life in America and the unfettered pursuit of wealth without bound by this class of voracious, unscrupulous hustlers in the finance world who effect a superficial garb of legitimacy.

The film does offer a ray of hope in the straightforward honesty and simple workaday lifestyle of Ginger and Chili (Bobby Cannavale).  Although they are both flawed people, their flaws turn out not to be fatal to their human bonds and their psychological balance.  There is a vibrance and vitality in their sharing of simple pleasures and daily concerns that leaves one with a feeling that they might be able to go on and create a workable life together.  But they are clearly vulnerable and the stability and the hopes that they share today could easily be derailed by the intrusion of the collapsing lives of those in the upper tiers of society represented by Jasmine.  The film is a dismal tragedy, but there are many comic aspects to it that provide a lighthearted feel that allays the overall grimness and prevents it from becoming dreary or oppressive to watch.  It ends on a note of ambiguity in a minor key.   Go see it.  It is a classic portrayal of key trends in contemporary American life.

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