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article imageReview: ‘Blue Jasmine’ is melancholy at its finest Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Aug 2, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘Blue Jasmine’, a life crisis forces a woman to leave Park Avenue and start a new life in San Francisco with the help of her sister.
Woody Allen's work has long reflected the human condition, focusing on the male's experience with sex, love and money. On occasion he has heralded a female protagonist, but she often bends to the whims of the men in her life. Blue Jasmine features not one, but two, female leads who took different paths in life. Combining elements of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and the Bernie Madoff scandal, this may be Allen's best work in years.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) married rich. Hal (Alec Baldwin) was nearly a decade older, but he swept her off her feet, out of college and into a bed lined with furs and jewellery. When his illegal business ventures eventually land him in jail and they lose everything, Jasmine is forced to move from New York to San Francisco and into her sister Ginger's (Sally Hawkins) cramped apartment. With no education or employable skills, Jasmine tries to cope with her fall from grace with alcohol and Xanax. But when both women meet their Prince Charmings (Peter Sarsgaard and Louis C.K.) at a party, it appears their luck may be improving. Though they learn the hard way that sometimes fairy tales don't have a happy ending.
This is an extended cut of Blanche DuBois' history. Anyone familiar with the play or movie starring Vivien Leigh will recognize Blanchett's character. When Jasmine met Hal, she changed her name and adopted a new identity to complete the fantasy. Each time reality chipped away at the life she created, she was pushed closer to the edge until she had a nervous breakdown. She seizes the opportunity to recapture her past with Dwight, but their desperation blurs both their visions.
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Having seen enough of Allen's pictures and recognizing the influences for this one takes the surprise out of the narrative. However, unpredictability isn't everything in a movie. The story is skilfully told via flashbacks that are actually memories Jasmine lapses into during conversations with people. The transitions between scenes are seamless as a coinciding phrase will lead Jasmine to relive a moment in a time before returning to the present, thus most events are seen through her perspective. These recollections provide glimpses into her former life – the good and the bad – until slowly all there is to reminisce about are the failures. Her happier memories revolve around expensive gifts, shopping on Fifth Avenue and lavish dinner parties; the darker ones involve adultery and betrayal.
Blanchett is brilliant in the role of the deposed queen who still looks down on her subjects, playing both the victim and the heroine. On the one hand, Jasmine remains the snob who escaped the middle class; on the other, she is constantly at risk of relapsing and far too eager to recount her life story to anyone within earshot. Blanchett finds an exceptional balance between these two contrasts and everything in between. Hawkins is incredibly likeable. While you agree with Jasmine that she could probably “do better” than her current situation or relationship, her acceptance of circumstances puts Ginger more at ease than her sister. The two women are polar opposites, but an excellent match.
The men are pillars for the protagonists. Baldwin is exactly as you’d imagine Jasmine’s husband: confident, charming and caring. C.K. is a nice guy who appears lucky just to have met someone like Ginger. Sarsgaard’s Dwight is a lot like Hal, but his public office makes him more charismatic and grounded. A surprisingly dramatic Andrew Dice Clay as Ginger’s ex-husband gives a significant speech near the end that makes you look at the comedian in a different light.
It’s been said Allen casts people who share traits with the personalities he’d like them to play. If that is the secret to a great film, then this movie is a sample of that genius.
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and Sally Hawkins
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