Monday, August 19, 2013

Blue Jasmine - a whiff of burnout

While I awaited with bated breath Woody Allen’s latest, Blue Jasmine, one thing I definitely wasn’t looking forward to was seeing his leading man, that being one Alec Baldwin. Baldwin has got to be one of the most obnoxious figures in Hollywood. And recently he outdid himself by making an outrageous anti-gay remark about a British journalist (look it up). But I had the last laugh – and more – after seeing the movie on the weekend. For one thing, Baldwin plays the most hideous of characters – Hal, a sleazeball millionaire investor, much like Bernie Madoff – who uses other peoples’ money to enrich himself. He has absolutely no morals. Second, one of the sponsors (product placements) in the movie is a certain Russian vodka, the name of which starts with S and is very popular among the trendy set. Well, isn’t it interesting that, life being so unpredictable, in the wake of this movie being made, there is now a massive boycott of such vodka. Why? Because it’s the most obvious Russian product that can be boycotted by people in the gay community and their supporters (who should be all of us). This follows this summer's outrageous Russian government crackdown on gays, a series of sickening repressive measures that have led to protests worldwide. (Think twice before you buy anything Russian.) What a terrible coincidence for the Woodsman. One wonders if his conscience is greatly troubling him after having the now discredited vodka play such a prominent role – including two endorsement lines from the main character - in his film. And it’s doubly ironic given Baldwin’s real life anti-gay remarks.

As for the movie itself? Blue Jasmine is a tragedy not unlike some of Allen’s previous films. Cate Blanchett as lead character Jasmine does a remarkable job portraying the anguish of a previously uber-wealthy woman brought down by her husband’s scheming criminality and now riding the fault line of a nervous breakdown. Exiled from Park Avenue to a working class walk-up in a seedy San Francisco neighbourhood to live with her formerly partly-despised trashy sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) Jasmine is trying in whatever way she can to pull a new life together, even if it means descending to such factotum jobs as a dentist's receptionist. But her past continues to haunt her. Ginger’s ex, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), castigates her (and Hal) for stealing $200,000 he’d won in the lottery by putting it into a bad investment. When it looks things might be turning a corner and Jasmine meets a career-climbing embassy official, Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) at a party, Augie turns up in the most unlikely of places and exposes her lies, after which the once fawning diplomat unceremoniously dumps her. Jasmine is forced back to the relative squalor of life with low class Ginger. As befits a movie by Allen there are enough laughs to go around in Blue Jasmine. But at its core this isn’t a very funny movie. And I can’t think of another of Allen’s films – other than his purposely unfunny Bergmanesque efforts like Interiors (1978) – that are missing his trademark nugget of sarcastic whimsy. In sum this movie is a downer. Allen is a master at churning out generally high quality films on a yearly basis. But with Blue Jasmine he might have pushed himself too far. There’s a whiff of burnout about it.

1 comment:

  1. Just saw it. Brilliant writing by Woody Allen. It was painful to watch the slide into mental anguish Cate Blanchett portrays in oscar nominating style after her fall from Park Avenue into virtual homelessness in SF. True to Allens' style, quirky personalities and along with copious amounts of alcohol (so much so I definitely needed a drink afterwards), were all there.