The Second Spring Film Club: Blue Jasmine
Our Film Reviewer in Residence, Alison Belch, will review films that are likely to be on the radar of the menopausal woman. If you are looking for car chases or gratuitous violence you may be disappointed - action films are unlikely to feature too high on her priority list. Please let us know what you think of her assessment of Woody Allen's latest film, Blue Jasmine, which has been hailed as a 'return to form'.
Blue Jasmine stars Cate Blanchett in what’s been tipped as a possible Oscar-winning role as a woman-on-the-verge; pill-poppin’, tremblin’, wine-swillin’, blubberin’ or what I think of as Wednesday evening. This is all brought about by the disintegration of her ‘one percent’, highly privileged Manhattan trophy wife existence, since the husband was put in prison, for shady financial dealings a la Bernard Madoff, where he later commits suicide.
Jasmine ups sticks to San Francisco, thereby taking Woody Allen completely out of New York, for a change and bestowing an emperor’s-new-location veneer upon the proceedings, which I suspect partly explains the positive critical response.
How can audiences be expected to care about a spoiled and vapid clothes horse, who appears completely ignorant of the source of all her wealth? Cate Blanchett does a bang-up job of arousing a degree of sympathy for her character and its efforts to make its way in this new world, staying in her adoptive sister’s apartment and having to attend what used to be called ‘night tech’, not to mention put up with the sister’s two unphotogenic teenagers and common boyfriend, Chili. No wonder she’s never away from the vodka bottle. I have a flame-haired friend who identified this style of acting as ‘runny-nosed’ (much like Kim Wilde’s singing, I’ve felt, since the 80’s) and Cate plays damp fragility quite beautifully. The Chanel doesn’t hurt the eyes either.
However, it defies credulity that such a female would be utterly unable to operate a computer particularly after several forays to class, carrying a large inexplicable ring-binder. Hasn’t she ever shopped online? Another ridiculous plot element is her sexually-harassing dentist boss, for whom she works as a receptionist. He conveniently doesn’t seem to use a computer in his offices and inconveniently, near enough assaults her with the force of his amorous advances in the workplace. Surely in the real world, this would result in a legal settlement large enough for Jasmine to obtain the desired training as an interior designer, at the very least? But no, Jasmine is doomed to scour the city for a rich sucker to whom she must attach herself, in order to put foie gras on the table. Her sister’s no better, temporarily ditching Chili for a supposedly better class of man, so that Chili can rock round to her apartment in his vest and do a Streetcar named Stanley Kowalski turn.
Towards the end, it’s revealed that Jasmine knew enough about her husband’s affairs to ring up the FBI and tell on him. Heaven knows how she looked up the number, never mind understood what your man was up to.
I had the distinct feeling that Woody Allen was in a hurry to edit the thing and wasn’t mindful of the minor details of plot veracity. Neither was there a likeable, creditable character to be had. There’s an inescapable misanthropy to his work of late and yet le tout Holywood is falling over themselves to work with him. Mia Farrow’s autobiography explains his civilised working hours - never shoots past 6pm apparently - and benign direction, not too fussy about sticking to the script and all. This must be the explanation but is unlikely to be mentioned in the promotional interviews.
Blue Jasmine, for me, falls into the category of excruciating films whose performances engender best acting Oscars. I’m reminded of Jessica Lange in Blue Sky, Halle Berry in Monster’s Ball and Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry. All horribly uncomfortable, although that was before I saw Jason Bourne snogging the face off Gordon Gekko in that Liberace film. Behind the Candelabra? Watched it behind me hands. And if Cate does win the Best Actress Oscar, Woody will be nowhere near as he plays the clarinet with his band that night - has done for yonks. I do respect him for that.