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Saturday, November 30, 2013

"Blue Jasmine", from Riches to Rags

Blue Jasmine

An overwhelming praise of a "serious" Woody Allen film? That should had been a warning for me, like "Match Point", that was saluted as a masterpiece, when at its best (Scarlett Johansson magnetic screen presence aside) it was an ok noir recreation with a solid script but a non-Allen film. "Blue Jasmine" is worse. I'm very sad to say that Allen's latest movie seems to come from another planet and characters are mostly unbelievable.

I could blame it to the fact Allen is too far from his natural environment here. Truth is that the world of Allen's filmography has been always pretty constrained in what regards to his sociodemographic scope. An intellectual, slightly upper-class American, recurrently related with arts or cultural industries. But that wouldn't be completely fair. Brilliant and very different works like "Purple Rose from Cairo", "Radio Days" or "Broadway Danny Rose" just to name a few depicted middle and lower classes with more depth an charm that "Blue Jasmine". And that's terrible considering Allen's new piece really wants to say something about social class in the new millennium, in this age of economic crisis where capitalism is showing (even to the most stupid) what a wrong system this is. The problem is that he tries to explore human nature, and its darkest sides, without getting there. Like the failed "Cassandra's Dream", the terrible "You'll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger", or the better but still sterile "Match Point", "Blue Jasmine" lacks depth and heart. And coming from Woody that's a huge disappointment.

"Blue Jasmine" is not a terrible film. The life of Jasmine French is the tale of a downfall, from riches to rags (not enough of these in real life sadly), that Allen exposes in a quite dynamic and wise juxtaposition of current and past events. It does seems it could work, as Cate Blanchett is the perfect actress to give her character sophisticated an elegant looks mixed with the vulnerability of someone who is always on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She is completely lost when she arrives to San Francisco (cool to recognise many locations of the city) looking for a shelter and a new start at her sister's house, a character so different to her that when the spectator knows that they were both adopted there's a relief. 

But right then things to feel pretty unbelievable. Jasmine's sister, Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, who seems to repeat her "Happy-Go-Lucky" role to an exaggerate extreme. Her naivete seems a bit silly to me. And so are many of the situations, conversations (not very funny) and secondary characters that appear on the story. In particular, I even felt a bit of embarrassment for Allen with the lame and ridiculous dentist as well as the wealthy Dwight (wasting an excellent actor like Peter Sarsgaard).

Then it occurred to me that maybe Allen was just pointing how delusional this woman can be after losing her status and lifestyle. That maybe we were looking to the story though her neurotic, bipolar eyes. That maybe would explain the "wild mood swings", the "going back and forth", not in terms of structure, but in what regards to Jasmine's behaviour... but it didn't really worked out either. Because I didn't care about Jasmine. Not talking about feeling empathy for her character, but I'm referring to interest in the story. Everything kept going, but nothing grabbed me, with the feeling some parts were pretty forced and the whole narrative-dramatic arc being a bit flat (Alec Baldwin's crumbling empire could have been better developed). 

There's a glimpse of brilliance at the end, with a cruel twist in the turn of events on which Allen seems to be punishing not only Jasmine but also Ginger (resignation). I believe the director wants to hold Jasmine as responsible for the crimes of the greedy class, as the perfect wife who profited from corruption, and when reality gives the final slap in her face, she lets madness win. Like in "Midnight in Paris", the impossible desire to be somewhere else and escape from your neuroses and a life you are incapable of living. But if the Parisian dream was lovely and full of magic and wonder, "Blue Jasmine" is just the image of madness. That darker twist saves the film from being a flaw in Allen's career, but it's a big deception nonetheless. 

SCORE: 5,25/10

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