Cinema has seen its fair share of manic females and nervous breakdowns, but no one captures bourgeois-Anglo neurosis as astutely as Woody Allen.
Opening Friday exclusively at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, 2501 W. Memorial, Blue Jasmine tells two stories. The first is about a rich socialite wife living more than comfortably in New York with her business-savvy husband. The second involves a distraught woman who sustains herself with alcohol, antidepressants and more alcohol. She’s always short of breath and on the verge of a panic attack.
When both of these stories collide, a woman teeters on the border between her old life and the present, inching closer to a meltdown every day.
Played by the inimitable Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit), Jasmine — the woman in question — is introduced on a flight en route from New York to San Francisco, vacantly babbling to her seatmate, who couldn’t care less about what she has to say.
Jasmine’s husband is dead. Broke, she must go to her sister in the lessthan-glamorous Bay Area for help.
That dead husband — the smoothtalking Danny (Alec Baldwin, TV’s 30 Rock) — had bankrolled Jasmine’s chic lifestyle. But the days of vacationing in the Hamptons, lunching with prominent ladies and hosting parties come to an abrupt end after Danny’s business ventures are revealed to be fraudulent. He is sent to prison, subsequently killing himself.
This is a full-on Bernie Madoff situation — save the suicide — and no one envies Mrs. Madoff.
Jasmine eventually attempts normalcy in San Francisco, taking a job as a dentist’s receptionist by day, attending a computer-literacy class in the evenings (socialites don’t need to know how to use computers) in order to enroll in an online interior-design program. Her goal is to obtain a career in what she perceives as her own league, not as a secretary performing menial office duties.
After being invited to a party by one of her computer-course classmates, she meets Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard, Green Lantern), and the two have an instant connection, based mostly on Jasmine’s fabrications but also on Dwight’s overt availability. Dwight proposes to Jasmine not too long after they meet. Shortly thereafter, everything unravels for Jasmine just as quickly as the romance of mutual convenience and desperation had begun.
The white Chanel jacket that Jasmine dons throughout is a metaphor for the character wearing it, remaining superficially flawless despite being thrown into very unfashionable circumstances.
Despite all the misfortunes Jasmine endures — self-inflicted or otherwise — it’s not one’s sense of schadenfraud that makes Blanchett’s character compelling. With smeared mascara and tangled hair, her performance is simultaneously hilarious and unnerving as she oscillates between sanity and mania.
While he doesn’t make an appearance on screen, Allen emotes in his own way via Blanchett’s performance as Jasmine. The distinctly Allenesque, idiosyncratic dialogue does more than hint at the 77-yearold filmmaker’s penchant for selfexamination through his characters.
Jasmine vaguely mirrors Alice in her wonderland, minus the mystical intrigue. With every new person she meets, she becomes more lost and removed from the life she knew before. Unlike Alice, however, Jasmine shows no signs of ever finding her way out of the rabbit hole.