As Blue Jasmine progresses, we become more aware and more of the shortcomings and narcissism of Jasmine French (Cate Blanchett). French is fresh off the heels of a marriage that ended with her spouse, Hal (Alec Baldwin), who admitted to being in an affair and was sent to jail for being devious in his financial gain. She loses everything and her life spirals downward, as she begins drinking and popping pills. Throughout the film, Hal’s scenes are specifically placed to piece together the story line of his inevitable downfall, and Jasmine’s downfall as well. Woody Allen, who writes and directs this film, does the difficult task of making Alec Baldwin very unlikeable, as we learn more and more about the kind of person he was.
The film, for the most part, is a portrayal of people trying to cope with their past and move on. Jasmine was lied to in her marriage and lost her elegant lifestyle. Her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), who was adopted like her, trusted Hal with her husband’s lottery winnings. They, too, lost everything and lost the chance at making a new life for themselves. She and her husband, Augie, (Andrew Dice Clay), eventually got divorced. Dice Clay is fantastic as a downtrodden laborer who finally catches a break, only to lose it all. Wife. Money. Even sparing visits from his kids. The kicker is that he was hesitant to invest the money in the first place, as he wanted start his own company. Hard luck life.
Even the secondary characters are attempting to get away from their past. There is Hal’s son, Danny (Alden Ehrenreich, who Jasmine raised with Hal), who knew the real reason why his father was sent to prison, Al (Louie CK), who is married, but has a fling with Ginger, and Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), who lost his wife and has his sights set on public office. Even Chili (Bobby Cannavale) shows progress of becoming a man who is more in control of his anger and who knows his shortcomings.
What links all of the characters together is the theme of “big things ahead.” Broken people trying to correct their past and who want to think of a bright future. Ironically, the only person not thinking of a bright future with “big things ahead” is Jasmine, even though she is the centerpiece of the film. She is constantly stuck in her past, reliving moments that are now only memories. Talking to herself on street corners and always drinking and swallowing pills. Continually putting down Ginger, Chili, you name it. She is mad at life, but instead of trying to move on from her past, she lives in it. Making up lies and deceiving those around her just to put on a thin veil of elegance.
As much as Blue Jasmine is a look inside a troubled woman, it also has very poignant commentary on white collar crime and the discrepancy between the upper and middle classes. Hal is living it up and sleeping around and is brought down, not by the FBI or IRS, but by her jealous wife who rats him out when she finds out that Hal is cheating on her. Circumventing the law is fine, but adultery is not. Such is the high life.
Also, Jasmine does not fare well in the lower and middle class situations and lifestyle. She is constantly “splurging” and can’t help it. The only time we see her acting civilized in the present is when she is with Dwight, as she almost cons her way back into a familiar lifestyle. Safe to say, she has a problem and everyone ends up knowing it.
Overall, Blue Jasmine hits the spot. The writing by Allen is satirical and witty, as per usual. His directing sense is impeccable, as he shoots around San Francisco. The acting is superb, with Dice Clay and Blanchett standing out. I would not be surprised if this film has a few Oscar nominations, including Blanchett. It’s nice to see Allen on his game again and make another top-notch film.