Blue Jasmine: Woman on the Verge of Her Second Nervous Break Down

Posted: September 3, 2013 in Movies

Blue Jasmine Movie Poster

 Ever since 9/11 Woody Allen can’t fully go back to New York.  He can only export the city to other locations,  letting the accents fill in the spatial memory, haunt the core of the frame like a ghostly echo of better times and better films.

In Blue Jasmine the New York  accents create a jarring dislocate, especially in a story set peculiarly in San Francisco, America’s most polyglot and multicultural biggest city and which borrows heavily from A Street Car Named Desire, Tennessee Williams masterpiece that is pure Southern Gothic heart through and through.

Allen did this same sort of thing with Paris twice  (Midnight in Paris and Cassandra’s Dream) filling the picture to the brim with New York literary expatriates, artsy types and jaded sophisticates living in the City of Lights, London three times (Scoop, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Match Point), Spain (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and Rome (To Rome With Love).

He repeats himself, most often to the delightful acclaim of cowed critics swayed by their great memories of the cranky old Uncle of American cinema to call it “homage” and not the lazy re-imagined fluff of a writer/director content to use every style but his own because all that remains is the pain and none of the inspiration or artistry– just the ghost of what he once was.

Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine with the Upper West side Manhattan accent– penniless because of the Bernie Madoffian scheming of her former husband (Alec Baldwin) who built his empire in her written name and upon his incarceration and death, leaves her to watch  the IRS and law suits siphon it all to dust– is forced to live with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins)  who lives content  babbling on in her  Brooklyn accent with her Queen’s brogue ex-husband (Andrew Dice Clay) in the first part of the film and her Brooklyn tone boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) in the second half.

Jasmine can’t shed her skin to lower herself to the reality of her situation and like Blanche in Streetcar is forced to depend on the kindness of strangers.   Jasmine already had one nervous breakdown and swallows Xanax like candy hoping to get the calm and stability to avoid a second one.

Where Blanche was grandly delusional and tragic because she could not conform the world to her better vision of it, Jasmine is sad and pathetic because the men (with one exception– that Allen hints may just be a delusion) are all Stanley Kowalski’s.  Jasmine (her nom de etre, her real name being Jeanette) can’t let her urbane mind descend to the urban world.

She and Blanche suffer the same fate, but Tennessee Williams had the greatness of mind to let the audience imagine Blanche’s past, letting the tragedy leak through.   Jasmine’s past is witnessed and is  just brutal, nasty and sad.  That is not a state any audience really wants to see.

Blue Jasmine gets a B-.

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