Year Released: 2013
Directed by: Woody Allen
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale
(PG-13, 98 min.)
Awards: 2014 Oscar for Best Actress, Cate Blanchett
“History repeats itself, the first as tragedy, the second as farce.” Karl Marx
The neurotic New Yorker deconstructs Tennessee Williams. Woody Allen also dishes the dirt on Bernie Madoff – who apparently lost the director a few cool million – in this overrated homage to dysfunctional narcissists, Woody Allen himself being the chief among them.
The film is so filled with thoroughly vapid and unlikeable characters, I was beginning to think I had overrated A Streetcar Named Desire, the Tennessee Williams play it so transparently, blatantly, and self-consciously mimics.
Now I realize Blue Jasmine is just a poor imitation, a glittery rip off of a designer gown that should only impress those without taste or judgment. Apparently, from the gushing critical appraisals, that set is rapidly expanding, particularly among film critics, who, according to the erudite Steve Ericson have been “lured into overlooking … the most overrated filmmaker’s shallowness.”
Perhaps Karl Marx had a vision of Woody Allen in mind when he observed that “…history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”
Because without the tragic veil that allows us to have some sympathy for Tennessee Williams’ Blanche Dubois, Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine is not just blue, she brittle as well. And this dark “comedy” never really lives up to that Greek-masked-figure, instead yipping at its heels, like the annoyingly pampered designer pet that Woody Allen has because to his self-indulged fans.
That is not to say the film is without moments of its own brilliance, a kind of comic genius that allows Woody Allen to pass off his paste gems as the real thing. Part of that is the seeming respect the actors have for him, wringing meaning out of their roles not necessarily written in the script.
Cate Blanchette in the title role brings such range to her character’s mental deterioration, a dazzling performance that echoes Joanne Woodward’s 1957 Oscar winning performance in The Three Faces of Eve, that we tend to overlook the fact that her bitter end is both self-directed and well-deserved.
Alec Baldwin, as Jasmine’s despicable ex, wears his unctuous sleaziness like a second skin, a fact that bears no further comment, and Andrew Dice Clay eschews his vulgar misogynist past for Jasmine’s relatively benign ex-brother-in-law, Augie. Bobby Cannavale’s Chili, the new suitor to Jasmine’s sister Ginger, takes up the mantle of Stanley Kowalski as the sentimental brute we can never quite hate. Both of the latter see Jasmine for the manipulative harpy that she is, as does her own grown son (Daniel Jenks.)
As another critic has noted, it the women whom Allen regularly treats with contempt. In addition to Jasmine’s unrelenting narcissism, redeemed only by Blanchett’s riveting performance, we have Ginger’s (Sally Hawkins) demeaning character arch. She is no Stella, devoted to her brutish husband, but a rather simple and insipid loser, trying on mates like sale shoes in Macy’s basement.
Yet, I predict this film will have the chattering classes doing what they do best when Oscar time comes around again, and the vacuous celebrities will don their garish gowns to pay tribute to the elite who chronicle their own dysfunctional parodies of life.
With Jasmine’s money, position, and husband, her number 1, 2, and 3 most favored accoutrements now lost, she regularly washes down her Xanax with copious amounts of Vodka. Given the film’s title, Different Drummer has sought to tint her favorite cocktail a nice shade of blue.
This Blue Lagoon Cocktail reminds us of the innocence from that 1980 film, perhaps a time that exists only in Jasmine’s imagination. But since Jasmine’s world is one of self-constructed illusion, the choice seems to fit.
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Blue Lagoon Cocktail
1 oz vodka
1 oz Blue Curacao Liqueur
Pour vodka and curacao over ice in a highball glass. Fill with lemonade, top with the cherry, and serve.