Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” – Review and Trailer

943535_581150268591833_664076823_nfour-stars4I do not think I have seen a Woody Allen film which has made me feel more uncomfortable than this one.

Blue Jasmine follows a woman going through a mental breakdown following the exposure of her husband’s Bernie Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme and subsequent suicide, as she flees to San Francisco to stay with her sister. The story is told almost entirely through a combination of flashbacks, a tactic which is generally too overt a way to provide exposition (and, in some cases in this film, this is true), and the chronological account of a bit of her time in San Francisco.

In the process of watching it, I cannot say I enjoyed it very much. I’ll start out with a large bias: San Francisco is not portrayed with much knowledge of it or its culture. For instance, there is a conversation about the best “fresh” clams in the city when there aren’t any fresh clams to be had, and for some reason every working-class person in San Francisco has a thick New York accent. But that’s an aside, and not really fair to critique the film itself by.

As for actual problems I had while watching it, the first impressions we are given before realizing everything is an excess of glamour and materialism, and the seemingly shallow way that the main character views the world. We see their luxurious lives, their trip to Martha’s Vineyard (my poor home, overcome with the wealth of others!), their enormous house, their spoiled son returning from Harvard, and so on. And then the reactions to and from her sister…

However, after watching it and reflecting on it, I came to realize that much of the film is actually a distraction. While providing backstory, the film’s glitter and glamour also provides insight into her psychological state – through viewing them, we view her delusions as she viewed them. To her these memories are things that are real in the present as well as the past, a fact augmented by her narrative that she mumbles unconsciously to anyone who will or won’t listen. Her guilt is destroying her, guilt stemming from the idea that basically everything negative that happened is in some way her fault – her husband’s suicide, her son’s downfall. What we see is what she wants to remember through denial and delusional fantasies in order to escape the realities.

This is much more serious and dark than Woody’s been in quite some time.

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Categories: Reviews

2 Comments on “Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” – Review and Trailer”

  1. Lawrence Chadbourne
    July 28, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Hi Tom: Woody has always had a blind spot about California (I recently looked at the parts of Annie Hall about La-La-Land again and they seemed mean spirited) as well as an obliviousness toward people who were not in his spoiled economic class. He has, however, been consistent in his concern for the quality film image, carefully choosing his DPS, helping to lead the fight for letterboxing on TV, and avoiding until recently using a digital intermediate which degrades the cinematography. It is thus a pity that this latest, shot in our fair city and like all the others on celluloid, is scheduled to open here at a theatre, the Clay, which has ditched its projection equipment and now shows only video.Let’s hope some theater that still preserves legitimate presentations on 35mm will play it eventually.

  2. Tom Ellis
    July 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    I don’t think his depiction of California in Annie Hall is mean-spirited at all. I think it’s a pretty funny caricaturization of California, and in the process a caricaturization of the way that people from the north East picture California. Good point about the Clay though.

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