I first saw Blue Jasmine on a whim one Sunday night with a couple of friends. The last Woody Allen film I saw was Midnight in Paris (2010) and considering that blew me away, I was eager to see what was next for the neurotic oddball director. I would later come to realise I should always proceed a new Woody Allen film with extreme caution and zero expectations, but thankfully my misplaced naivety paid off in this instance.
Blue Jasmine (2013)
Blue Jasmine is about the titular Jasmine, a self-styled name as she was born a ‘plain’ Jeanette. She is a woman living the high-life in New York city with her financier and fraudster husband (Alec Baldwin) and step-son. Only to have it all come crashing down and have to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and her boisterous children in San Francisco. The narrative and characters unashamedly draw comparisons to the popular American play A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams, but the narrative also reminds me of another American playwright’s work. Arthur Miller’s narratives always revolve around the ‘Roosters coming home to roost’. Simply meaning that a person’s past actions will come back to bite them in the ass during the course of the story. Which is exactly the case in Blue Jasmine.
Half a world away
That’s where the comparisons end to the theatrical medium as the film takes place in a variety of locations across San Francisco and in the flashbacks to New York City. Jasmine is the most social of the socialites. She married her rich husband before graduating college. She doesn’t work but instead goes to yoga classes, shops and organises charity events all day. Swapping the backdrop of penthouse apartments in New York to laid back, coastal San Fransisco and Jasmine’s severe anxiety and warped view of the world make her appear even more deranged.
The film unfolds beautifully like playing a jenga puzzle. The narrative pulls out blocks one by one as the audience learn more about Jasmine’s past. And even if the final twist, the jenga tower crashing down, weren’t there we’d still have a fully formed, inciting story with colourful characters. If Jasmine is blue, then her sister Ginger is a sunny yellow and her boyfriend Chilli is a fiery red. And we’ve still got Allen’s trademark European music motifs to lighten the bleak mood.
It’s no wonder at all why Blanchett took home the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal as the anxious and deluded Jasmine. She plays neurotic like she’s lived it and almost completely steals the show if it weren’t for Sally Hawkins. Hawkins was the perfect choice for kind-hearted, albeit easily taken in, Ginger who has the sensibilities of a teenager but deeply cares for her loved ones like only a mother could. Overall Blue Jasmine is a sip of the Stoli Martini with a twist of lemon: Refreshing, sour and delightfully indulgent.
Have you seen Blue Jasmine? Did you like it as much as I did?