AFI at the Academy
In Blue Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the title character as well spoken, seemingly affluent and carefully groomed. In fact, she’s heavily medicated and close to having a second nervous breakdown (the first involved electroshock therapy). Her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), the mastermind of a ponzi scheme, has left her in the lurch.
She flees New York and lands in San Francisco to be with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Ginger used to be married to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay). They’re East Coast transplants. Now, she’s involved with a guy named Chilli (Bobby Cannavale), another New Yorker. So, why not just set the thing in Brooklyn or Jersey? The reason is obvious: the San Francisco scenery. Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe [Goya’s Ghosts (2006)] is very effective at conveying Jasmine’s journey from New York dinner parties to the low rent (if such a thing exits) part of San Francisco. When she meets the wealthy Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), she gets a glimpse of heaven by the bay. Aguirresarobe’s camera again captures the scene beautifully.
By contrast, the screenplay is lazy. Ginger’s chubby boys act as a kind of Greek chorus asking stupid questions or making comments to explain plot irregularities. Early on, they ask about their mother and Jasmine being adopted, needlessly explaining their lack of family resemblance. Jasmine is lifted almost wholesale from Gena Rowland’s Mabel in A Woman Under the Influence (1974), directed by John Cassavetes. All in all, it’s a terribly disappointing effort from Woody Allen, normally one of my favorites.
A nice surprise, however, is Sally Hawkins. She was quintessentially British in Happy-Go-Lucky (2006). Here, she transforms herself into a working class American woman trying to stay afloat financially. We’re told that unlike Jasmine, Ginger lacks “good genes.” Fortunately, she does have a quirky, sexy charm of her own. The movie’s called Blue Jasmine but Ginger is the one to watch.