The reviews were in, and we arrived at a sold-out theatre like every other patron there, anticipating a fresh Woody Allen chronicle that would re-affirm our faith in the power of wit to right every wrong, or at the very least, to make them more palatable.
What we got was an uncompromising mirror thrust in our collective faces.
I AM NOT COMPLAINING. The film did not lack any of Allen’s laser-like reproduction of “art, imitating life, imitating art.” It did not disappoint. But take your Prozac before the show; you’re gonna need it.
Loosely based on Tennessee William’s “A Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” we follow the story of a Park Avenue socialite’s physical, psychological, and financial unraveling. If you think you couldn’t care less about that, it’s probably because you haven’t realized that “it could happen to you.” Don’t despair; Allen reveals.
However, it’s not just a story about the self-absorbed Jasmine French (radiantly played by Cate Blanchett), and her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin, need I say more?), a greedy Ponzi-schemer who loses it all and takes everyone down with him. That would be too easy. In this tale, there are no ‘innocent victims’ – all are complicit, including Jasmine’s ne’er-do-well sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) as well as her ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), two ‘salt-of-the-earthers’ who harbor their own fair amount of greed and who, much like our villains Jasmine and Hal, are their own worst enemies.
You WILL see yourself in one of the characters, more than likely, in all of them. You will hear things said that will make you cringe, not because of the callousness of it all, but because you have said them yourself. You will empathize with your attackers. You will realize your own complicity. You won’t like it. But you will learn from it.
Lesson #1. BLAME YOURSELF. Yes what happened was unjust, but you played a part in it. We all do. No one can take you for a ride unless you make a thousand little choices that put you in that car, so stop acting so surprised.
Lesson #2. FORGET THE PAST. If not, you will be condemned to re-live it. Forever. Do yourself a solid and move on.
Lesson #3. KNOW WHERE YOU STAND. I mean it. Deal with reality, or it will deal with you.
There are more lessons that I can’t divulge, firstly because it will spoil the movie, but more importantly, because you will take from it a very personal lesson that only you can decipher. Good luck with that.
Of course, to assume that “Blue Jasmine” is merely a story about four people would be to miss the underlying brilliance of the narrative – a searing social commentary on the state of the union. It is undeniable that Hal represents the predatory nature of the global banking system, and Jasmine the deranged political machine so dependent on that system that it turns a blind eye to impending doom; that’s easy enough. The rub is realizing that neither could have created so much chaos without the help of ‘regular folks’ like Ginger and Augie (read, “everybody else”), whose lusty hope for social and financial change blinds them to the facts, and drives them straight off a cliff.
In political affairs as in theatre, “There are no small parts, just bad actors.”
And that’s the most important lesson of all.
Run, don’t walk, to see “Blue Jasmine.” But be prepared to face your demons. And if you’re not ready to answer some tough questions, I suggest you go alone.