Woody Allen’s presence was keenly felt in the Bernie Madoff-inspired film “Blue Jasmine.” The music, cinematography and tone are exactly what audiences have come to recognize from this iconic writer/director. However, while his character-driven films usually either move me to tears or to laughter, “Blue Jasmine” left something to be desired.
The movie focuses on Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), the ex-wife of ponzi-scheming Hal (Alec Baldwin). The story is told non-linearly, jumping back and forth between the past and present. The present details Jasmine’s struggle to rebuild her life after her fraudulent husband’s arrest and subsequent suicide, and the past chronicles the steady decline of her marriage to the wealthy and powerful Hal. Intermixed is the relationship between Jasmine and her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Although the audience gets to know all these characters rather well, it doesn’t take a film expert to see that there’s not a single half-strong or -decent female character in sight. This movie is a woman’s story, yet you never root for the female protagonist or her sister. You never come to like or respect Jasmine’s friends or Jasmine herself. This was not some innovative anti-hero tactic at play—this movie was just the story of a weak woman. And while there are likely many weak women out there in the world, and it was perhaps inventive of Allen to let that type of person carry a movie, he chose not to add a single decent female player. Instead, he emphasized all these women’s failings by pairing them with much stronger, more likable men.
Normally, I applaud Allen’s ability to create real people through his writing and directing. It’s why his movies hit home with audiences. But by having only actively flawed female characters (who, by the way, fail to grow during the 98-minute film), the authenticity suffered. Whether or not intended by the filmmaker, there seemed to be an agenda, which weakens the strongest part of Woody Allen films.
However, the premise is worthy of recognition. Money movies have time and time again told the story of the rich and powerful men who tackle Wall Street by any means necessary, but Allen chose to look at the woman beside him and then the women beside her. Unfortunately, all of these women were terrible people, making “Blue Jasmine” not terrible, but not terribly good either.