Review: Blue Jasmine

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It has been my experience that most people either love or hate Woody Allen films. A rare few fall somewhere in the gray area, but most tend to lean strongly towards one side or the other. I find myself more often than not falling towards the "love" side, but usually with a few apprehensions. This is how I felt about Blue Jasmine.

I was head over heels for 2011's Midnight in Paris, especially since I hadn't been a huge fan of Allen's films for the past few years. It restored my faith in Allen's filmmaking, and thus got me ready for Blue Jasmine. (I will note that I have not yet gotten a chance to check out To Rome With Love, so bear with me.)

The film follows Jasmine, played by the always beautiful Cate Blanchett, and her recovery from a recent mid-life crisis. We discover that her late husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) was an embezzler and a fraud, leaving her with no money and nowhere to go. Desperate for help, she turns to her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) for a place to stay while she gets back on her feet. Like most of Allen's movies, the lineup features a handful of other great actors such as Peter Sarsgaard, Louis C.K., Bobby Cannavale and many others.

Jasmine is a complex character with what appears to be a history of delusion or mental illness of some kind. Many people in her life try to welcome her into theirs and help her, but Jasmine is stubborn and wants to do things on her own without help. As the story progresses and her relationships become more intense, we start to see where her anxiety comes from. This is shown through a really good use of flashback through Jasmine's memories, often ending with us coming back to reality in what appears to be Jasmine talking to herself, recalling the memories out loud.

Two things really stuck out to me in Blue Jasmine. The first was how versatile Blanchett and Hawkins are, not to mention their onscreen chemistry with one another. There is so much unspoken history between these two characters and it really leaves you wanting to see more of their relationship with one another.

The second thing that struck me was how elegantly Allen writes for and about women. Rarely do we see a writer truly hit the nail on the head with conveying a woman's quirks and idiosyncrasies, but Allen does it so well in this film. You seem to feel every panic attack and every nervous tick that Jasmine has and is trying to overcome. Although this can be a unique film-watching experience, I wouldn't recommend it if you are prone to such attacks yourself.

As much as I am a fan of Allen's work, I think Blue Jasmine doesn't quite hold up to his usual standards. The comedy is dry like always, but elements of it leave you mad or uncomfortable (such as the way Jasmine never lets up on her sister's life choices). I am happy to see him continue to make movies, but I think he should stick to true comedy. After walking out of the theater I felt anxious the rest of the day, and as much as I believe in taking a story with you, I'll pass on the post-film anxiety and near panic attack. Thanks anyway, Woody.

When you walk out feeling uncomfortable

Thanks for your honest review. I just love when people can step away from the current enthusiasm for a film and tell how it affected them personally. I too don't enjoy leaving a theater uncomfortable or anxious. (MANHATTAN did that for me) but I frequently acknowledge that the power of performers to suspend my disbelief is the making of a well made film. Woody does that. He knows women very well and touches our buttons by telling the truth. I can't wait to see it and will run to a yoga class right after if necessary.

Re: Blue Jasmine

I'm intrigued that you felt that way after MANHATTAN -- actually have to say that that is one of my favorites, although I can see what you mean about that certain uncomfortable feeling the film gives you. (Guessing that's the whole 'dating a MUCH younger girl' aspect?) Also advise you to not do what I did and consume coffee during the screening; I'm sure that did not help at all.