Let’s get one thing clear right off the top: I like Woody Allen films. I’ve even loved some of them, most notably his early stuff, but even Annie Hall or Manhattan, which didn’t fall in that slapstick category like Bananas or Sleeper.
Blue Jasmine is the latest in a kind of romantic period for him–witness Midnight in Paris or To Rome With Love. But frankly, it’s just kind of whiny and almost everyone in it seems absolutely flat.
Cate Blanchett plays a New York society woman forced to sell practically everything she owns after her husband’s shady financial dealings come to light and the whole scheme topples. She’s forced to go to San Francisco to live with her sister–or adopted sister, as both were adopted by their parents–where she starts to discover “real” life and just how much her life wasn’t like that of most normal people in the world. She’s angry, depressed, despondent, clueless, and suffering from at least a few psychoses.
And she lands in her sister’s life, which she had a hand in ruining by pushing her sister and then husband into investing in one of her husband’s schemes. But the sister is forgiving and willing to help.
She gets a job and starts studying online to become an interior decorator, and things start to seem to be getting better until she meets a well-off man at a party. They begin dating and making future plans, including marriage, when things fall apart when lies she has told the man about her past life unravel.
The story is, in its simplest form, an allegory about lies and how much they can hurt people. And that’s fine on its own, but the story tries to make Blanchett’s character out as the greatest victim–or at least a victim through her ignorance by not paying attention to her husband’s schemes. But she isn’t a true victim: she embraced the lifestyle, and obviously became detached from how the world works outside of the bubble she’d been living in for years.
She’s constantly drinking, frequently talking to herself, and we see her story through flashbacks. And she isn’t likable at all, if for no other reason than you know she’s looking down on everyone she considers to be less important than she is.
And that’s a big part of the problem of this film, Blanchett’s character is one thing and one thing only: perpetually broken and angry. Her performance is, frankly, simplistic because there weren’t any other demands on her character portrayal. And everyone else around her in the film is just as two-dimensional: her sister is happy with her life and mostly perky; her husband (Alec Baldwin) is all business, the sister’s boyfriend is shallow and smarmy but generally and OK guy, and everyone else is mostly forgettable. Except for Andrew Dice Clay’s character, the ex-husband of the sister. He’s the only one who seems to talk sense, who expresses any anger over how his life has turned out as a result of the financial problems, and is not apologetic about moving on and trying to build a new life.
No, this isn’t a Woody Allen comedy. It’s one of his character studies, which can be very well done when he does it right. But this one just feels hollow all the way around. Sadly, this movie is not worthwhile. Two out of Five Stars.