Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blue Jasmine (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Blue Jasmine

Legendary auteur Woody Allen strikes again with a hit in "Blue Jasmine" a darkly comic morality tale that speaks of chance and consequence and two insatiable egos. The film is a meditation on folly and living unconsciously, as much as it is about our postmodern selfishness. Cate Blanchett stars as Jasmine French, a down and out soiled but glamorous former wife of a Bernie Madoff-type financier played by Alec Baldwin. Blanchett is excellent as Jasmine, who is a rumpled and twitching coil of amber electricity. She will make you laugh as well as make you nervous with her spastic vexations along with her periodic swallows of Xanax that go down like slugs from a gun.

Jasmine is blighted by episodes of manic monologuing and staring into space through the trauma of living with a dishonest rat who defrauded millions of people. She decides to live with her sister (Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco. Despite having no income, Jasmine still consumes as a credit-gobbling fiend. Although Jasmine is judgmental, she is not totally unsympathetic. The rug was pulled out from under her, that's true, yet she only took action when her husband cheated on her.

The narrative is smoothly told  via impressionistic flashbacks, rich in pathos and textured blots of character details. We see how Jasmine grew into the setting of crystal surfaces and green polo lawns. She is very much like a polished and golden narcissus, as immaculate and sparkling as the charms on her wrist. We also see the hardened hubby Hall, all smoothness and abstract bliss as he carries out one quick deal, along with serial affairs. Baldwin is a scaly cypher in a polo shirt, invariably robotic with disinterested grace.

This is existential Woody Allen. The warm hearted New Yorker cartoon qualities of  "Midnight in Paris" are not here, but nor should they be.  But fear not. Allen's "madcap" enthusiasts can still take heart. There are flashes of brilliant humor as in the salacious dentist (Michael Stuhberg) that will have you rolling in giggles.

The heart of this film though, is in the philosophic Passion Play of Jasmine. She'll carry you along within her harried heart and you'll end up rooting through all her travails of tension. There is something Gothic too, in her circumstance as she is haunted by pulling and guilty ghosts: Jasmine knows the right path, yet chooses the wrong one. She is hapless and submerged by the Spirit of the Wealthy.

A wonderful performance is given by Peter Sarsgaard in the role of Dwight, Jasmine's last hope, who is a wiggly and preening social climber in a white linen suit. The notorious  comic Andrew Dice Clay also has a good turn, full of meaning as a spurned blue collar would-be entrepreneur who doesn't pull any punches.

"Blue Jasmine" earns its place with "Match Point" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors". Riveting, thoughtful and tense, it is not without its sense of humor (albeit from the Gallows variety). The final scene will hit you like a singular, potent punch and echoes the bereft heroines of Tennessee Williams: here is a chromium flower now pricked and scarred.  Karma has caramelized Jasmine's once alloyed skin, leaving her alone and babbling with imps of regret.

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