Could there BE any movie more depressing than Woody Allen’s recent Blue Jasmine? To see Jasmine (played with breathtaking skill by Cate Blanchett) slipping further and further away from reality- shallow, beautifully self-involved, preoccupied with everything material was deeply painful. Woody beat her up, put her down, made fun of her and then stomped on her. I kept looking for the humor, the quirky likeability, the bungled humanity, the ironic search for value in an uncertain world. Instead, there was deep dislike, condemnation, and “gotcha” for this materialistic, blinkered woman who seemed to be a caricature of the drug-clouded, elitist “life-style” that Woody has no use for.
There was some redemption to be had by Jasmine’s sister, Ginger, who was authentically kind, reasonably true to herself and eventually recognized, and was worthy of true love, though, it came in the form of a blue collar, Stanley Kowalski sort of guy who didn’t meet with her sister’s approval. Yet the “triumph” of the underdog did not mitigate the directorial man-handling of Jasmine or save the audience from despair.
Despite the missteps of his personal life, Woody Allen has been one of my favorites since I saw him perform at the “Bitter End” in the Village when I was 17. What was so appealing about him? His gaze at the world was piercing, ironic, irreverent, debunking. And funny. And forgiving.
Blue Jasmine, to my way of thinking, is a tired, old man’s take on the world. A world where people delude themselves, lie to others, settle, become rich through dishonesty, betray others, and cling to a life devoid of meaning. Those who manage to cling to their humanity are sadly poor and without material prospect.
But maybe this movie is part of a “phase.” Maybe Woody had some bad fish the night he wrote this screenplay. Maybe his next movie will have the hopeful magic of Midnight in Paris. I hope so.