Well, I gotta hand it to Woody. Blue Jasmine is far better than the movie postcards he’s been making for last couple of years. Though in those cases bar has been set so low so it’s no wonder that Blue Jasmine manages to outdo them. Almost anything could. Even Üwe Boll’s stuff. Even so, I’m really not satisfied. It dawned to me, long time ago, that Woody Allen will never make another Annie Hall, or Zelig, or Manhattan – that train has passed – but I can’t help expecting it to happen, so I watch, passionately, whatever he comes up with next. Whatever it is, It’s rarely dull (though last few films stretched this to the point of breaking), though it’s never exhilarating. On a side note, Cate Blanchett is becoming more and more like Meryll Streep. Excellent in whatever role she chooses to become. Her Jasmine is perfect. Those twitchy mannerisms of a woman on a verge of nervous breakdown, those quick transformations from a wreck to a walking fetish idol of higher class society, her speech patterns and body language – it’s all perfectly controlled and perfectly spontaneous at the same time. One can almost forget about the movie just watching her act. Alas, great acting doesn’t invoke the phrase ‘great movie’ as well. At least, not in my book (it’s a weird one I can tell you right now. Book, not Cate that is.). In my book it’s just one of the components for a great movie. Can’t be overlooked, but can’t be centerpiece either.
There is couple of things one might observe when facing this movie. For instance, one might observe that Blue Jasmine is a character study. This is legitimate reading especially if you take everything on a face value. Sure enough, there’s this abhorring chick which should be put to work in some sweatshop in China just to get in touch with some perspective, there’s this constant, delusional yammering about herself and there’s this egomaniacal quality present in almost every character that Woody Allen has ever conceived (especially in those that he played himself). One could easily wonder why should one care about this person who is so otherworldly and off-putting that you’d probably get the urge to wash in a nice, cool pool of acid if you ever shook hands with her. Be it as it may, it’s a perfect specimen for analysis. Methods are abundant. Having decades of experience in creating neurotic characters, you can be positive that Allen will manage to create a beautiful construct that will get on your nerves and fascinate you at the same time. This aspect of the movie is not much different from the same aspect in his earlier movies. Analytical fun and random deconstruction lasts for some time and then you move on. Once you get a gist of it it’s rather shallow and uninteresting.
One might ask himself, and this is where Blue Jasmine actually becomes interesting, what do these characters represent. I’m not sure that Woody Allen is so detached from reality that he would fail to observe the zeitgeist around him. He was egocentric throughout his entire career but despite that, his movies were always in harmony with the outside world. One does not become the poet of New York City just like that. I’m not really sure that I managed to grasp “what’s it all about” in its entirety (that’s the thing with metaphors – they can go in any direction or no direction at all) but the thing that I see kept me thinking. At least for a while. Every movie that does that to you is a good movie, nevermind what critics say. I was thinking about can this movie be summarized by the concept of class struggle (not in a Marxian sort of way, if of anyone, one should think of Darwin and/or evolutionary psychology). Woody Allen has been an unwanted brat of psychoanalysis for quite a long time and it seems plausible that, over the course of time, he would become interested in different schools of psychology. So, in that light, can Blue Jasmine be viewed as both apology of the pople-are-determined-by-their-class-which-is-determined-instead-by-their-genetics (I think that’s what’s constant bickering about genes all about) and the critique of the rationale? If there is something like determining factor involved, how can we account for individual breakdown, whether it’s psychosis or neurosis? Is the state of Jasmine French just a consequence of failing to secure her biological destiny or is there something more? Something more along the lines of morale (consciousness, with or without religious connotations) interfering with biology. Is Jasmine French sign of the times? Some sort of iconic character that tries to bridge the gap between the biological mechanicism (which is the dominant paradigm of the times we live in) and “old-school” concepts of the individual (in its Kantian and post-Kantian sense). If so, we might note that she fails to bridge this gap. She breaks down, having failed to find a healthy balance between illusions and truths. It’s a fitting image for a Woody Allen movie, and I think it’s not entirely wrong as a conclusion. The fact that it’s depressing can’t be helped. World outside of Hollywood blockbusters and Xanax haze can be quite like that.
Directed by: Woody Allen
Produced by: Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Edward Walson
Written by: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg
Music by: Christopher Lennertz
Cinematography: Javier Aguirresarobe
Editing by: Alisa Lepselter
Studio: Gravier Productions