Blue Jasmine just may be the first time I can recall that Woody Allen has not inserted his own persona into one of his films. Blue Jasmine is the worse for it. Not in a ‘it’s a bad movie way,’ but rather in a ‘this is too much to take kind of way.’ Take the Woody Allen character out of his films and they are just too damn hard to swallow. Just too damn depressing to subject yourself to for a few hours of entertainment. And yet, Blue Jasmine may be one of his best films ever. It’s honest, without hiding behind his usual “look at ridiculous, neurotic me” humor.
Blue Jasmine is a bold move on Woody’s part. Woody Allen has a New York City fan base that loves his view of their lives, and his ability to make fun of rather than condemn a lifestyle devoid of loyalty or moral fiber. And while his past films have dabbled with it, this one is in your face. Woody’s following might not forgive him for putting a mirror in their faces with no where else to look.
One more thing on this topic. Message to Woody: Just because you didn’t write yourself into the plot doesn’t mean you aren’t one of them. Just sayin’.
Yes, Blue Jasmine is Cate Blanchett’s finest hour. No question about it. And she should be up for an award because of it. I have never before said that about a performance in a Woody Allen movie. Because he usually allows his actors to interpret his scripts as they see fit, rather than directing them, some of those actors in the past have seemed to be walking a high wire without a net. This, in my opinion, has often made for tentative performances lacking deep emotion. The actors directing themselves cannot totally emerse themselves into their performances.
Kudos to Juliet Taylor and her amazing casting yet again. I saw a documentary recently about casting directors. (Did you realize that casting is not an Academy award category? It should be!) Anyway, Juliet has been Woody Allen’s casting director for a zillion years. He apparently hates the casting process, and hates telling someone they didn’t get a part, so she is the one who puts it all together for him. Without her casting vision, Woody Allen would not have all those great reels to put on the shelves of cinema history. Well done Juliet.
The film cuts back and forth between the time after Jasmine’s breakdown and the events that led up to it. That calls for brilliant editing. Seamless transitions. Maybe it’s because he does it so often, but for whatever reason, it’s choppy. The scenes are not completed before moving on, and you feel as if the water in the shower has just gone from hot to cold. It makes it hard to follow the plot.
The plot. Is it about Bernie Madoff? I’m sure it is; no one could possibly miss the similarities. It’s another first for Woody to take something that happened in a public real life event and put his spin on it. I hope he does it again. He’s good at it. Not the Maddoff story for Lifetime, but rather, the reason the Madoff story as seen through the eyes of those who lived it. Maybe Zimmerman and Martin next? It could work.
Woody may be growing up. Or growing a pair. As I stated earlier, exposing those who have made you a successful film maker is a bold move. Here is the story that you really should write, Woody. Write the story of a man who seduces his lover’s teenage daughter and not only gets away with it, but experiences zero fallout from it. Do it honestly. Show the people who enabled him to do this. Show the psychosis behind it all, and I will stand up in the theater and applaud you. I’ve never done that before.