Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Blue Jasmine - Woody Allen - a film review

Well, let’s make a confession right as I start – I am kind of new to Woody Allen. Yes, how-much-so-ever uninitiated - illiterate if you would - this may sound. In fact, to confess, I had only watched “Annie Hall”, “Love and Death” and “Everything you wanted to...” before this. I did like all of them, but of course for what they were due for – that queer sense of humour, that slapstick humour, that oblivious not-that-I-care-much-for-you-but-can-we-still-sleep kind of weird humour. Humour, if at all!

Among those, I was stupid enough to form a vague guess about Allen and his film-making orientation, style and restrictions, particularly around the subjects he covered and stories that he chose to tell.

This, Blue Jasmine, my fourth of his, changed that. And how!

The rest of this is full of spoilers. But, do read on…

Jasmine, once Jeanette and then changed her name, had been swept off her feet in love by a charming prince while “Blue Moon” played in the background; and that, when she was still in college. What would she do becoming an anthropologist, she had thought, and dropped out of college into a life with him.

Living had been one of an empress ever since. Park Avenue, New York - she would proudly recall, chin up.
Her husband was a successful, prosperous Manhattan financier, and if anything, that’s an understatement when it came to wealth. He got her anything, everything practically, before she could ask. They lived the most enviable lifestyle and hosted the most talked about parties of the town. They had a son from her husband’s earlier marriage, who did them proud in academic achievements and was actually more proud, in turn, of the father he had that the world looked upto. The father was indeed a successful man!

But then, it comes out that her posh rich husband was actually a crook in the business world and made money in illegal ways.  And you couldn't exactly tell if she knew or not knew given how in love, looking away, and oblivious she was in her life. She had her name and signatures on any paper he would ask her for, and wouldn't stop to read. The police arrested him in the open daylight on the street, and she, too, is called upon and then released later on. As the trial progresses, the disgraced, busted husband kills himself. The house of cards crumbles down, the bubbles, all of them, burst at once.


And then, there she was! Talking all by herself - to strangers in the plane, on the street, and at the wall - about how it happened to her. All the memories of the life that once was – the beach house, the doting husband, the trophy stepson – and how she had had everything the most of rest of the world can only dream of.

The Jasmine, of the now, however was penniless; broke, broken. Flying first-class because she cannot otherwise, yet free loading at her divorced sister’s modest, incongruous household, one whose life her husband had once ruined by playing away all her ex-husband’s fortune and whose present moving-in plans with her current boyfriend were held up on her arrival. “To make a new start,” she’d say, was what she was there for.

She was haughty, arrogant, non-adjustable, and then, regretful. And then, hard-working, single minded, awaiting and working at her second chance in life. The only trace of fortune that had once been were left in her attires and accessories, and in the way she spoke and walked, and in all those things that she could not bring herself down to but yet did, like playing a receptionist at a dentist’s while learning how to use a computer which she will in turn use to do a course in interior decoration. She had realized that her strength and skill-set has been, and perhaps only been, in an exceptionally good taste in clothes, accessories, decorations and soft furnishings.

And, all this, while creepily talking to herself almost all the time - of things bygone, of her life bygone, of moments from the past.

But then it comes – first in slight hints, and eventually, at the end, all at once.

Jasmine - the ever so proud and still somewhat defensive of her husband of what her husband did and died due to - and yet, her eyes gleam, twinkle, as she describes, avoids yet describes, not flinches, at how the neck snaps when someone hangs himself. How he did hang himself - her husband, in the cell. How, he killed himself. If you were to describe her then, you’d perhaps think of a wounded tigress.

But then, and yet, she cannot stop but always, always talk about how life has been – how she fell in love with him back in college, and had let gone everything else to be with him, what an empire they, she, owned, and how luck had turned.


And then it comes. Jasmine, by turn of some events and after a ill-fated, miserably failed attempt in pretense at resuming life with a prosperous prospective man for a husband, meets Danny, the stepson. At this downfall, Danny the stepson had dropped out of college as well. Not because he couldn't afford the fees but because he couldn't face the people who once thought his father was all that he said he was and now knew the truth.

Now as she meets him years later - and as she pleads with him and he vents out in confrontation - Danny tells her how it’s not as much about his father but about her, Jasmine. He tells her that he knows.

He knows!


Well, Jasmine wasn’t stupid; at least not stupid enough to not know something was amiss in how and how much the husband minted money; the luxury, the pomp, the bubbles. But then, he loved her, and she loved him too. She even asked him a few times, didn’t she? He had neither confided nor denied, but had said – “Stop worrying, Jasmine, leave it on me.” She did.

Isn’t that how we are? How we all are? We stay quiet, we stay put, we don’t arise. No, we don’t - until it hurts us, US, personally. And so she was – quiet, oblivious, happy, and conveniently ignorant. Blind, delusional! Pretentious? Yes, that too, to the rest of world. Even when they reported to her about his infidelity and said he was having affairs, and it did shake her up somewhat, when she asked him and he denied, she too denied alongside. That denial of convenience, that denial in not daring to uncover the unknown - until it happens, personally; until it happens too much on the face, to deny anymore. And even then, perhaps, she could be calmed down, brought back to her life in the bubble, had it not been him, the husband.

Hal had admitted it this time, on confrontation – said that he loved someone else, and though the earlier ones were indeed true yet casual, this time was serious. Hal wanted to leave her. Hal wanted to move on.

There! That thing about closing your eyes until it reaches you. It hits you. Personally!

How much more could FBI ruin life for her anyway, now that her husband, her husband, had told her he loved someone else?


It was she. She had called the police - to turn in her husband to the authorities as a crooked financier.

Oh yes, class mattered to her; it did. If not class, comfort, at least. But then, perhaps, not as much as love! And so, she let go. Everything. Over love. And, over revenge.

It happens!

Cruel? Yes. But who?

As you think of it, the story, you realize that Jasmine’s trajectory is intense, complicated, distorted, and yet strangely singular. It always was. And that exactly is where she touches a cord. That is exactly where you know she knew no other way. She lived in love. She was not left with a choice, or a place to go. Just like the closing scene – poignant, melancholy. She had nowhere to go!


Take a long bow, Woody Allen. You are a master in what you do. Cate Blanchette, too. 

"Anxiety, nightmares and a nervous breakdown; there's only so many traumas a person can withstand before they take to the street and start screaming."  - indeed!