Making the Grades
Watching Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine is like being on the sidelines waiting for an inevitable train wreck. When the implosion finally occurs, Allen cuts to black, leaving the audience in the dark as to what ultimately happens to the protagonist Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchett).
Used to the finest things in life, this beautiful wife of a wealthy businessman (Alec Baldwin) finds her life spiraling out of control when he admits to a string of infidelities and fraudulent investments that results in the couple losing everything. With nowhere to go, Jasmine lands on the doorstep of her younger sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).
Ginger is everything Jasmine is not. A short, dark-haired single mom with two boys, she works bagging groceries at the local supermarket. He ex-husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) can’t move past the fact that his former brother-in-law squandered his lottery winnings on some shady deal. But Ginger has moved on. Despite her humble surroundings (which are still pretty good for a grocery clerk), she has no hard feelings toward her tall, blonde, impeccably dressed older sister even though Jasmine can’t find one nice thing to say about Ginger’s new love interest Chili (Bobby Cannavale). In fact, Jasmine repeatedly tells Ginger she is too good for the grease monkey with a hot-temper.
Set to a typical Woody Allen musical score, Blue Jasmine feels like a modern take on A Street Car Named Desire, Tennessee Williams’ famous stage play (that was also adapted into a classic movie) about another dysfunctional character. Like Blanche in that script, Jasmine seems hell-bent on self-destruction. Popping Xanex pills like candy and never getting too far away from a good stiff drink, she teeters on the edge of sanity for most of the movie.
Only when she catches the attention of a handsome, ambitious man (Peter Sarsgaad) does she try to improve her odds of snagging him with a litany of lies about her past—falsehoods that the audience knows she will never be able to maintain.
It’s almost as if you can hear the engine straining to stay on the tracks as this vulnerable, privileged woman seeks to regain the kind of financial advantage she seems to think she is due. However constant alcohol consumption, frequent profanities (including two sexual expletives), smoking and illegal drug references push this film beyond the parameters of most family viewing.
And despite the film’s meticulous editing and strong performances—especially from Cate Blanchett—this voyeuristic look at one woman’s tragedy may leave even some adults feeling let down. After all, a person can only take so much pleasure in watching the painful ruination of a life.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Blue Jasmine.
Jasmine accuses Ginger of settling for losers when it comes to her relationships. Should Ginger be content with the treatment she receives from Chili and Augie? How does Hal compare with the men Ginger chooses? What kind of man do you think would be good for Ginger? What about Jasmine?
Despite their similar upbringing, why is Ginger’s life so different from Jasmine’s? Which one of them seems more equipped to deal with life and its challenges? What makes one person more resilient than another?
How is Jasmine’s beauty both a curse and a blessing to her? How does her dependence on alcohol limit her ability to deal with life and move forward?
What does Chili learn about himself and his ability to control his temper? Do you think this understanding will have life changing implications for him, or do you suspect he will fall back into old habits?