By Carly Keyes, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 3, 2013
When movies end with the bad guy getting caught and the good guy getting the girl, it’s as repulsive and trite as it is warm and fuzzy. Sure, the audience wants a happy wrap-up, but life seldom supplies those. Life is hard. It’s worth living, but it’s hard and certainly no picnic for the tragic heroine in writer-director Woody Allen’s latest effort, “Blue Jasmine.”
At the Michigan
More like this
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”), the way-upper-class Manhattan socialite formerly known as Jeanette, loses her luxurious and glamorous lifestyle with her sexy sugar daddy (Alec Baldwin, “AmeriQua”) when she discovers his authentic self that ain’t so sweet. Embarrassed and broken — with nowhere else to go — she flees to San Francisco and bunks with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins, “All is Bright”), much to the dismay of Ginger’s soon-to-be fiancé, Chili (Bobby Cannavale, “Lovelace”).
To claim Blanchett carries the film is an immense understatement. She’s part of an incredibly talented and impactful ensemble cast that makes an indelible impression, but Blanchett is a reigning giant among … smaller giants.
It’s impossible not to pity and hate her character simultaneously: She’s lost everything, but she refuses to accept that she’s lost everything, which makes life harder than need be.
She tightly grips her Louis Vuitton luggage and firmly clings to her Chanel belts as she reminisces about her previous position of wealth and power and expresses zero gratitude for Ginger’s generosity and zero interest in gaining her own financial independence. This obstinacy and intense rejection of reality prompts several sessions of manic-depressive behavior. She talks to herself in public, pops prescription pills and downs drink after drink to quell the chaos inside her head.
It’s hard to root for her as she lives in denial and copes destructively, but she’s so pathetic that it’s easy to root for her, too, even if only to stop the moping madness.
Jasmine’s wistful internal flashbacks manifest visually as Allen cuts back and forth between past and present, a technique that heightens the dramatic tension and moves the story along at an exciting pace without revealing too much too soon.
Allen layers. He layers the story; he layers the characters and, in doing so, layers viewers’ emotions. He peels them away like an onion — not simply because an onion physically has layers — but it becomes more and more difficult to refrain from tearing up as the beats go on.
The staggering complexity hits home for anyone who’s ever experienced an entirely unexpected loss then slipped into their denial hoping that — just maybe — they’ll bounce back to an even higher spot than before. But to begin anew, we must let go of the old. And it’s hard. Life is hard. But sometimes it doesn’t have to be as hard we make it.