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Thursday
Oct172013

Film Review

 

Blue Jasmine

Reviewed by Old School Critic

 

Just saw the new Woody Allen film, Blue Jasmine. It had some big names: Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Saarsgaard and was written and directed by Allen. Some of the scenes were hilarious, but the film as a whole was depressing. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. The hilarity came from the caricatures who made up the characters and the parodies of behavior and dialogue in which they engaged. But they were stereotypes. Very well-acted stereotypes.

 

The story tells the tale of a woman (Jasmine—played by Blanchett) who has lost everything because her super-rich husband (Baldwin) turned out to be a financial crook who bilked hundreds of people, including her sister, out of their money in fictitious schemes and led an apparently charmed, Bernie Madoff-type life on the East Coast until he was caught. He went to jail and committed suicide while his wife and son became not only destitute but emotionally shattered.

 

Jasmine moved in with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins) and in the movie, attempts to rebuilt her life. The son (Alden Ehrenreich) fled both parents and after a rocky adjustment, finds some tentative peace working in a music store.

 

Cate Blanchett was remarkably poignant in her role and I couldn’t help but identify with her (she made the same mistakes and fell for the same things a lot of us do) and feel sorry for her at the same time. Her shifting back and forth between elegant competence and pitiable  disintegration was masterful  in terms of acting. It also showed us how fragile each of our constructed lives and public personas are.

 

I think this was a morality film. The Blanchett character, Jasmine, appeared to be a victim. But we were shown over and over that there were warnings of her husband’s dishonesty, which she ignored. Warnings that she should not sign documents, which she signed. And with all the evidence that her husband was a crook, she continued to spend his money, mollifying her qualms by sedating them with jewelry, clothes, parties and alcohol. That she really knew what was going on (and therefore was not a victim, but was instead, complicit in her husband’s dishonesty) was shown when it was finally revealed that she called the FBI to report what he was doing when she found out that he was having an affair and wanted to leave her. She only remained ignorant of her husband’s misdeeds so long as she profited from them.

 

In some ways the film is a swipe at Bernie Madoff and his wife and family, the latter of whom claimed total ignorance of Madoff’s dishonesty.  Madoff’s wife Ruth actually moved in with her sister, just as did Jasmine in the film.

 

But this isn’t just a small-minded vilification of Bernie Madoff or any of his family. There is a larger message.

 

Each of us hides our head in the sand on numerous occasions when we witness dishonesty or unethical behavior but we either profit from it (the merchant who accepts cash from us and gives us a discount because he won’t have to report his sale to the tax board), or we might be injured if we say something about it (our bosses  are the ones who are being unethical or dishonest and we could lose our jobs or our prospect of a promotion if we say something). Blue Jasmine shows us that there is a price to pay. Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine pays the price both from the public repercussions from her and her husband’s behavior and from her inner conflicts about it. Most of us will only pay because of our inner conflicts…our guilt. But we ought to pay. Turning our backs on the dishonesty in which we are asked to participate, either explicitly or tacitly, carries a penalty. We are altered for the worse each time we do it.

 

 

 

 

 

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