Review: Blue Jasmine (Escape From New York)

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Woody Allen’s breezy, glamorous Manhattan takes it on the chin in Blue Jasmine, his first film to be set in San Francisco and possibly the first to see New York as a place to flee.

Unlike most of his main characters, Cate Blanchett isn’t an obvious proxy for Allen, and not because she lacks a penis or neurotic tics. In Manhattan, Jasmine (Blanchett) was the image of luxury, spending time in bubble baths, unconsciously washing off the grime that emanated from her husband and loaded friends. She refuses to see their betrayals, so when she loses her money and her mind, her only safe haven is her adoptive sister Ginger (a perfect and trashy Sally Hawkins), living unromantically in San Fran.

Jasmine’s life reboot is a source of slight, sharp wit, and her suffering isn't as satisfying as it is bittersweet. Ginger’s confused but well meaning efforts (usually doled out while Jasmine glares down her nose into a Stoli) elevate the emotional stakes without letting Ginger become the savior or Jasmine the leper. As part of a pattern, Jasmine hurts her sister and lets her be hurt by others; Ginger’s biggest loss comes as the result of the only loving advice her big sister gave her (“aim higher, you’re worth it"). Remember when we were urged to laugh at Tony Roberts because his gleeful scheming was hilariously repugnant? In Blue Jasmine, there are no victimless crimes, all villainy results in harm—this is the closest to Eric Rohmer Allen’s ever got.

It always seems unfairly auteurist to grade a filmmakers works against each other but Allen’s one of few directors whose quirks are so precise and repetitive, it can’t be helped. And as most of his main characters are Woody-Allen-stand-ins and each film revolves around a theme he’s somehow exploring, how can we avoid looking at Blue Jasmine as another of his messages in a bottle? Jasmine’s gilded cage rejects her, but she can’t weather life outside; she bit the hand that fed her, which was always grimy but she made such a career of making light and looking away, calling it out would be admitting compliance. Which it is.

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