Jasmine is indeed blue, and she has reason to be.
Her late husband, Hal, was a crooked businessman who killed himself in prison. The government took almost everything he bought with his swindled cash, and Jasmine has since pawned the rest. Her son left home in a huff. She had a nervous breakdown. She has no job and no prospects.
But she still has her pride. And boy, does she.
Taking with her just a few bags of designer luggage and buying a first-class ticket, Jasmine leaves her old life in New York City for a new one in San Francisco. Her sister, Ginger, has offered to let her stay at her cozy (read: cramped) flat until she gets back on her feet—pretty decent of ol' sis, considering Hal lost all her and her ex-husband's money in a financial scam.
And Jasmine tries to be appreciative. Really she does.
It's just that everything is so … different. Ginger's a grocery checker, for goodness' sake. Her boyfriend's a mechanic. Instead of going to dinner parties and attending polo matches, they drink beer and watch MMA on TV. They're not trying to improve their lot in life. Why, they seem to be perfectly satisfied with themselves just the way they are—no matter if they have designer labels on the throw pillows or not.
Jasmine would, of course, never judge her sister for her way of life or taste in men. Oh, perhaps she pushes Ginger to better herself and strive for more, and she repeatedly tries to help the woman see that she has a horrific habit of hooking up with the wrong guys. But that's the least a loving sister can do. It's encouragement, not judgment! Meanwhile, she herself must try to get back on her feet again and figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Perhaps she could get that college degree she never finished. Or take up something like interior design, perhaps. Yes, yes, that would be a fine way to make a living. Genteel. Clean. Stylish. Just like her.
Of course, that means she might have to take a more menial job to pay her way for a time. She'll just have to pull herself up by her own bootstraps—no easy feat when you've grown so used to Luis Vuitton heels.
Director Woody Allen is not known for his heroic characters. They are quirky, often neurotic and sometimes sympathetic, but rarely heroic. One might find an exception, though, in Jasmine's long-suffering sister, Ginger. She's an exceptionally kind soul, opening her home to her proud and standoffish sibling, willing to forgive past injuries and think the best of Jasmine, even under some pretty trying circumstances. When people insist Jasmine should've had an inkling as to what her husband was up to, Ginger defends her. When Ginger's beau and friends weary of Jasmine, Ginger stands up to them. She takes and absorbs Jasmine's barbs and rarely barks back, conscious of Jasmine's pain and mental instability.
Granted, she probably suffers a little too much at her sister's hands: To be courteous and kind doesn't mean one must become a doormat. But her heart's in the right place (which is so much more than we can say for Jasmine).
Jasmine tells a stranger at the airport how fantastic sex was with Hal. But Hal, we later learn, also carried on a string of affairs—a truth Jasmine could not or would not see. His conquests included lawyers, personal trainers and mutual friends. He calls them "casual flirtations" until he "falls in love" with a French au pair (a teen, according to Jasmine). With her he says he wants to start a new life—an admission that is as humiliating as it is hurtful to Jasmine.
In San Francisco, Jasmine is pursued by three men. The first, a friend of Ginger's beau, Chili, is brusquely shooed away. The second, a dentist for whom Jasmine works for a time, is not so easily put off. Dr. Flicker tells her that the way she dresses arouses him. He presses her, both physically and verbally, finally forcing a kiss and clearly wanting more. (Jasmine eventually succeeds in escaping.) The third is Dwight, a wannabe politician who kisses Jasmine (which we see), sleeps with her (which we don't) and takes her shopping for engagement rings before uncomfortable truths bring an end to the courtship.
Ginger and Chili talked about moving in together before Jasmine comes to stay. Ginger later meets Al, a guy she believes is a far better man, and the two enter into a torrid romance. We see them kiss and roll around on a bed, and from conversation we gather that they had sex the first night they saw each other. Ginger says it's the first time she's ever done that and asks Al if he thinks she's "easy." No, he says, "I think you're a fun-loving person."
Al also talks Ginger into having sex in a car right before she's supposed to get back from break. "Are you one of those sex addicts?" Ginger asks. "I am for you," he says. (She later discovers that he's married.)
It's clear that one woman isn't wearing a bra. There's talk about "hotness" and sex; a joke references casual prostitution. We see pinching and kissing.
Hal pins the arms of a struggling, out-of-control Jasmine when she learns about his affairs. He is said to have hanged himself in prison (with talk about whether he strangled or broke his neck). We see glimpses of mixed martial arts fighting on television.
Crude or Profane Language
Two f-words, two s-words and a number of other profanities, including "a‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "p‑‑‑." God's name is misused at least two-dozen times (once or twice with "d‑‑n"). Jesus' name is abused nearly 20.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Jasmine has some serious mental health issues, and she engages in a great deal of self-medication. She often pops pills (referencing Xanax) when feeling stressed or panicky, and she drinks almost constantly—sometimes pouring herself glass after glass of vodka. We also see her drinking wine, martinis and other alcoholic beverages.
Ginger, Chili and their associates prefer beer, and they're often all shown with bottles or cans in their hands. Someone jokingly suggests that Ginger's had one too many as she and others stagger back to her place. Folks smoke cigarettes as well. The dentist asks Jasmine whether she's ever gotten high on nitrous oxide. Jasmine's son says he's off drugs.
Other Negative Elements
There's a lame gag about a colonoscopy.
Blue Jasmine is predicated on deception and its brutal consequences for both the deceivers and the deceived. Hal is a world-class liar, rocketing through the world of business via duplicitous means and ripping through his marriage with the buzz saw of infidelity. Al lies to Ginger about his marital status. And, among other things, Jasmine lies to Dwight repeatedly, apparently hoping he'll never find out about her past until they're married, if even then. Honesty, it seems, is a rare trait, growing rarer and, in a way, less desirable the higher one climbs in society.
But it's telling that Jasmine's most persuasive lies are those she tells herself. In flashback, we hear her frequently admit how trusting she is—how she'll sign anything thrust in front of her. Ginger calls it a talent for looking the other way when she has to. And for years, Jasmine refused to see Hal's philandering and told herself she didn't know or care about his business dealings. Until, that is, the truths pushed into her life could no longer be ignored.
It could be said that Jasmine loses her mind when she loses the ability to lie to herself. She can still put on her beautiful face for others—the lie she learned the best. But when she begins to talk to herself (as she often does), the veracities spill out, cutting like glass.
Truthfully, then, Blue Jasmine is moving and illuminating and beautifully acted. It is also bitterly profane and tragically bleak. While some have called it a comedy, it is of the saddest sort I've ever seen. There is occasional levity, but little hope. It only mutters to itself its anguish and pain in the dark of the theater.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Drama, Comedy, Romance
Cate Blanchett as Jasmine; Alec Baldwin as Hal; Sally Hawkins as Ginger; Andrew Dice Clay as Augie; Bobby Cannavale as Chili; Louis C.K. as Al; Peter Sarsgaard as Dwight; Michael Stuhlbarg as Dr. Flicker
Woody Allen (To Rome With Love, Midnight in Paris, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Scoop, Match Point, Melinda and Melinda, Anything Else, Hollywood Ending, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion)
Sony Pictures Classics
July 26, 2013
Paul Asay Paul Asay