If you mention Woody Allen, you are likely to get either one of the two responses: a clearly disgusted “Ugh,” with a roll of the eyes, or, the more rare, overwhelming “Ahhh!” of delight, eyes glistened with glee. I tend to fall in the latter, which may explain why it took over a month after it’s theatrical release to find a showing of his latest film.
I understand this director is a unique character with flaws not everyone can overlook to expereince the wonder of his films, still Woody Allen is an acquired taste. Because when watching a Woody Allen film, the one thing you do know is you never know what you’re in for.
Woody Allen’s films are like a variety of distinct espresso drinks. One may be strong but topped with delightful frothiness, another flighty and too sweet for some to consume, while others are so dark and grimy you’re chewing bitter coffee grinds in the last sip. Whichever concotion it is, Allen packs a punch in each film. Regardless of preference, Woody Allen’s creations are, without a doubt, as broad as espresso is versatile.
His most recent film, Blue Jasmine, would probably fall into the category of bitter and acidic, the one full of earthy grinds at the bottom of the cup, or more like that last cup from a french press that is half full of grinds. (Is it weird that I like that?) Somehow Blue Jasmine is still an invigorating production, that leaves you thinking, “Whoah. I don’t know if I could take all that in again.”, just to later recall it as surprisingly palatable, just different. I had no idea what to expect, except for some amusement ( thanks to Alec Baldwin) and a for sure stellar performance from Cate Blanchett, regardless of where the film would go. And, amusement and sublime entertainment I did discover.
Blue Jasmine, the story of a modern day Park Ave, pretentious woman who’s dependency on wealthy men leaves her a year short of a degree and a head short of any horse sense. The film opens after Jasmine’s husband has left her for another, younger woman, her son has disowned her and financial wrecked, she’s drags herself, all packed up in her Louis Vuitton bags, to her penniless sister’s cramped apartment (who’s she’s neglected in times of financial hardships in the past.) Set in San Fransico, Jasmine has made the plunge, ready to start a new life on a clean slate, ready to find herself.
It is a gritty, idle and delusioned journey for what some modern woman’s expecations and depiction of life should be. Following Jasmine, now in her 40’s, without a degree, a man and much common sense (she spends her last measly dollars to upgrade to first class on her flight) is at times painful to watch. She struggles looking for a bearable desk job, going to computer classes just to work that job, facing an unwanted dating life, and again searching down another man to be the provider that will sweep her away from a life of reality, responsibility or financial independance, fulfilling all her dreams and desires. ( I guess she didn’t learn the first time.)
Jasmine (though apparently inspired by the Tennessee Williams “Streetcar Named Desire”) is such a brass, pale and tight-laced woman, with such an impractical expectation of what life owes her, it would be surprising if this is an interpretation of some version of the New York prudish women the director may have previously encountered. Through a turn of, somewhat gradual, events Blue Jasmine displays the danger of idleness, entitlement and wayward thinking that can send a woman to her grave. (No spoilers here, don’t worry.) It’s presented in the most cynical, gritty Allen-esque way some may find this one hard to swallow. But if you appreciate variety, a little spice (ok, a lot of spice) and reflecting on the real dangers that a detached, dreamy and delusional mind create for itself , “Blue Jasmine” is well worth your consumption.