Blue Jasmine

August 18, 2013 4 Comments


“A Streetcar Named Disaster”

Woody Allen’s newest installment “Blue Jasmine” was the focus of a Reel Deal discussion on Sunday, August 18th at the welcoming Maple Theater.  Those who attended were able to screen the film at the 2pm matinee and then join in a brief, but lively discussion right in the theater.

There seemed to be overwhelming  audience approval of the film, which unfolds  the story of   “Jasmine” (Jeannette) played by Cate Blanchette , a narcissistically clueless socialite who has lost her privileged status with the downfall of her Madoff-like husband (Alec Baldwin). Penniless, but still flying first class, she has been banished from New York and now must eek out a meager existence with her hapless sister Ginger in San Francisco. Jasmine may have lost her wealth, but retains large stores of entitlement. Allen’s fascination with the wealth of the upper class, which he captured  in films like Annie Hall and Match Point continues. Allen uses flashback of Jasmine’s prior life to parade us through the streets of New York’s 5th Avenue, past Gucci, Fendi, Chanel and, of course Louis Vitton and then through a tour of summer living in the Hamptons.

Although there are ample comedic moments, this film is NOT a comedy.  In fact, this may be Allen’s darkest film.  Blanchette’s Jasmine is a bitter alcoholic, who pops Xanax to control her anxiety and growing panic.  Hal (Alec Baldwin) is a philandering sociopath. Dr. Flicker, Jasmine’s dentist employer  sexually harasses her in not-really-funny scene.  Ginger leaves her fiance for a man who offers her an iPod. Characters either behave VERY badly or turn their heads when others misbehave.

Drawing heavily from ” A Streetcar Named Desire”,  Allen provides us with a Stanley Kowalski-esque character (Bobby Canavale as Chili) and Blanche’s (I mean Jasmine’s) incipient insanity and a growing sense of doom.

The discussion following the film covered a wide range of  observations.

Was this an uplifting film?  Some thought so.

How did the autobiographical threads (references to much older men falling for teenagers) inform the feel of the film?

Did Woody Allen’s usual clever dialogue diminish the emotional depths he was apparently aiming to explore?

Was Jasmine as guilty and reprehensible as her husband Hal?

There was little disagreement among the audience that Jasmine was mentally ill, but a range of comments about the source of her disturbance. Was she borderline personality?  Bipolar?  Psychotically depressed? Alcoholic? All of the above?

Was Jasmine doomed to a life of insanity?

Other questions that we didn’t have time to address:  Has Woody Allen run out of ideas?  Does his age (77) diminish his artistic ability? (There is a terrific article in a recent LA Times about the septogenarian and octogenarian filmmakers.)   Is this a film about the destruction brought on by wealth or a statement of the moral abyss created by humankind?

What was the impact of  Allen’s choice of music?  Why “Blue Moon”?  What about the choice of  “Jasmine”?

Please feel free to join in the conversation of this provocative film.

Don’t forget to frequent the Maple Theater!

See you at the movies!

Jolyn Wagner




Maple Theater Secret Cinema, Must See Movie of the Week
4 Comments to “Blue Jasmine”
  1. I must say that overall, I did not like this movie. I thought that Allen’s combination of clever reparte and heavy drama diminished the impact of the tragedy he was unfolding.
    The acting was superb all around, but the story seemed less than the characters. Redundant. Disturbing. Too droll for his own good in this one.

  2. I had a different experience!

    First I really enjoyed the sound and wardrobe design.

    Second, I was particularly impressed by the arc of Ginger’s story, and that justice prevailed in the end. I thought it was beautiful, how she was shown to us at first to be the seemingly less fortunate sister.

    Yet we watch as she is swayed twice by Jasmine. First, seduced by the promises of financial gain via Jasmine’s husband’s scheming. And the second time (after taking Jasmine in to her San Francisco apartment) falling prey to Jasmine’s seductive, but very misguided, relationship input.

    Unlike the situation with the financial investing, Ginger figures it out this second time, before it’s really too late; this supposedly “better” type of man that Jasmine has urged her towards is revealed to be a complete sham, just like the financial scheme was. But this time, the sham is revealed to Ginger in time to reconcile with her finance, and carry on with her life.

    Jasmine does not take her down a second time.

    In the end, it is Jasmine who remains unchanged and stuck. Penniless, her husband gone, her son not wanting to ever see her again, and alone babbling to herself on a park bench.

    Ginger, on the other hand, comes around full-circle. And emerges as clearly the more fortunate, happy, grounded and competent of the two. As she probably was all along. Not a woman of great wealth, but a woman with love and happiness in her life, meaningful relationships, and a decent sense of herself and what she values.

  3. Kendra says:

    I like more aspects of the film as well… Jasmine may have been the center but she was surrounded by a colorful supporting cast that added so much complexity & richness to the story.

    I appreciated how the child that felt less loved & favored by her and Jasmine’s adopted parents… did not make her grow bitter & resentful – she triumphed despite it all.

    Also enjoyed a surprisingly touching turn by none other than the Diceman! But is there any hope for our dear poor Jasmine? If she had only been completely honest w/ her new beau – she may had a 2nd chance at real happiness… becaues he seemed quite smitten w/ her.

  4. Bruce Russell says:

    I just saw Blue Jasmine and am sorry I was not in town to discuss the film with others. I loved the film and do not understand why Jolyn said that the “clever reparte and heavy drama diminished the impact of the tragedy that was unfolding.” I didn’t think there was “heavy drama,” and the reparte was not so clever as to distract. This film is mostly a character study so the story should take second place.

    I think the sisters are more alike than may appear at first glance. Both want money, though Jasmine wants millions while Ginger would be happy with the 200K she won in the lottery. Both lose their money because of Hal’s dishonest dealings. Both want to be loved by a man who will not betray them, but Hal betrays Jasmine and Al (just an “H” away from Hal!) betrays Ginger. Jasmine wants a better man than Augie and Chili and their friends, and so does Ginger! When Jasmine tells Ginger that she should get a better man, Ginger does not defend Chili by saying that HE is a good man. Instead, she says that she doesn’t see any such men knocking on her door. Contra Diane, I do not think it is Jasmine’s urging that makes Ginger fall for Al. He is the kind of man she has been looking for but was not confident that she could get. She may be happier and more grounded in the end than Jasmine, but I think she ended up settling for Chili. She gave up looking for a man like Al, but one who was unmarried and would not betray her. Jasmine is different in that she will not settle for less than what she wants, and she finds it in Dwight. However, by lying to him, she loses him. Jasmine has much higher aspirations than Ginger, and she will not settle for less than what she wants. As a result, her fall is deeper and harder. She tells Ginger’s kids at a restaurant when she is babysitting them that after many traumas you take to the streets and talk to yourself. She isn’t crazy, but she is deeply traumatized. Jasmine is complicit in Hal’s wrongdoing and averts her glance so that she does not see his affairs. Ginger does none of that, but her aspirations are similar to Jasmine’s, though on a smaller scale.

    How often do people get the life and the love they really want? Once in a blue moon. Here are the lyrics to the song, Blue Moon, which is mentioned several times in the movie.

    Blue Moon
    You saw me standing alone
    Without a dream in my heart
    Without a love of my own
    Blue Moon
    You know just what I was there for
    You heard me saying a prayer for
    Someone I really could care for

    And then there suddenly appeared before me
    The only one my arms will hold
    I heard somebody whisper please adore me
    And when I looked to the Moon it turned to gold

    Blue Moon
    Now I’m no longer alone
    Without a dream in my heart
    Without a love of my own

    And then there suddenly appeared before me
    The only one my arms will ever hold
    I heard somebody whisper please adore me
    And when I looked the Moon had turned to gold

    Blue moon
    Now I’m no longer alone
    Without a dream in my heart
    Without a love of my own

    Blue moon
    Now I’m no longer alone
    Without a dream in my heart
    Without a love of my own

    At the end of the film, Jasmine is alone, without a dream in her heart, without a love of her own. But Ginger is not. It can happen…once in a blue moon.

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