A rare feat! | Daily News

A rare feat!

Blue Jasmine

Woody Allen’s late life period drama is a sharply observed comedy which addresses real world concerns. ‘Blue Jasmine’ explores the pretense behind the high class society and unveils them for who they are.

Cate Blachett plays Jasmine French, an icy New York socialite whose life came to a sudden downfall when her crooked and unfaithful businessman husband, Hal, is arrested by the FBI. With her marriage in tatters and having lost her fortune to government liquidation Jasmine is forced to move to San Francisco to start life afresh with her adopted sister, Ginger.

Jasmine is use to the best luxuries that life could provide. Thus she finds it hard to find her feet in Ginger’s homey abode. She finds Ginger’s finance vulgar and her friends annoying. She is unable to shake off the highfalutin attitude she cultivated during her former lifestyle. Instead of taking on the job of doing clerical work for a dentist immediately, she ponders over whether to go back to studying anthropology, a pursuit she abandoned 20 years ago, or learn interior designing online. She stubbornly refuses to deal with life in her new setting and manages to drag her sister into a situation by criticizing he tastes in men and whisking her off to a high socialite party held in town.

The flashbacks are effective in constructing the psyche of someone who cannot recover from the loss of her past life. It tells us about how exactly Jasmine feels when she is exiled from the heights of New York society and has to start scraping to make ends meet in San Francisco.

Jasmine has been introduced to the story purely as a psychological character study. Allen effectively constructs a portrait of how dishonest someone has to be to themselves and their loved ones to maintain sanity. Her fatal flaw is how oblivious she is to her husband’s infidelities and crimes. Any suspicions she might have harboured has been erased by an expensive jewellery piece which her husband presents to her. As Ginger states, “Jasmine has always had a way of looking in the other direction,” a habit she continues even when her life is in tatters.

It is clear that she has penchant for revisionism from the moment we learn that she has changed her name and married to a higher caste. She is often dubbed as the sister who has the ‘better genes’.

‘Blue Jasmine’ vividly portrays some of the post-meltdown realities of the working class America, ones which Jasmine is ill equipped to deal with. Such scenes generate satire and humour and is one of the movie’s greatest strengths. Jasmine’s painful attempts to build her life back again, stooping to the level of a mere gold digger, is well observed by the filmmaker and crafted into the tale in a genius manner.

A drawback in ‘Blue Jasmine’ is while the director’s main focus is on the protagonist, the supporting characters in the story such as Ginger, Augie, Chili and Dwight are underdeveloped.

Blachett masterfully plays a complex picture of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She digs at the core of the character and balances Jasmine’s varied moods. Though she is self-centered and picky at almost everything she attempts, Blachett also makes Jasmine’s character likable and therefore wins over her viewers. This is definitely an Academy Award winning act and a rare feat!

The rest of the cast is sensations as well. Sally Hawkins too plays her role skillfully as possible as Ginger. Though there is sisterly bonding when Jasmine convinces her of certain things, their relationship is that of resentment and rivalry. Bobby Cannavale too does well as the big hearted Chili. He is the perfect foil for Jasmine’s cool exterior and posh poise. Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, and Louis C.K play the rest of the key roles.

Kudos to Allen for making a work of such incisive brilliance. Coming at the age of 77, ‘Blue Jasmine’ is probably his best film in years, probably since the Oscar winning ‘Annie Hall’. Brilliant, delightful and funny.

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