We went to see three movies recently, Blue Jasmine, The World’s End and Closed Circuit. Here’s my 3-movie scoreboard.
My husband loved Woody Allen’s new outing starring Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin and the city of San Francisco, along with the Hamptons. Me, not so much. Let me say first that Ms. Blanchett’s performance as Jasmine French is superb—Oscar-worthy in every way. She truly brings the character to life: but that was part of my problem.
Jasmine is not a good woman or a nice person. She is not admirable or worthy of the audience’s sympathy in any way. The list of adjectives required to describe Jasmine is extensive: shallow, narcissistic, vain, lazy, entitled, unloving, insulting, oblivious, inflexible, delusional, mendacious, and high maintenance. All she wants is what she just lost—a man to take care of her in comfort and luxury. If this is Mr. Allen’s comment on the One Percent via a takeoff on Ruth Madoff it falls flat because Jasmine is to totally unlikeable. If it’s his take on wealthy Manhattan women, one wonders why he would spend any time on the subject.
My husband thought the movie was about the value of telling the truth and the difficulties one creates by lying. He’s probably right because he had a much more objective perception of the film than I. He was able to take the character of Jasmine as presented without being offended by her, as I was.
Mr. Allen contrasts Jasmine with her adopted sister, Ginger, who is a low-class, supermarket checkout clerk. Because the two women were adopted, one can overlook the physical differences between Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins. But it was nearly impossible for me to believe that two girls raised in the same home by the same parents would act so totally different, have such widely disparate life goals, and would, if nothing else, have such different accents. While Mr. Allen treats his blue-collar characters with more sympathy than he gives to the One Percent, he also looks down on them and regards them with disdain.
Bruce Handy’s review in Vanity Fair does an excellent job of comparing Blue Jasmine to A Streetcar Named Desire with Ms. Blanchett as Blanche du Bois and Bobby Cannavale as a west-coast Stanley Kowalski. Unlike him, however, I never got to a point where I could have affection for Jasmine. She’s too unpleasant and she never changes. There is no character growth, no story arc that gives Jasmine the opportunity to adapt her behavior or overcome her limitations. Without that growth, I just found her hard to take and could not feel much when she sinks even lower.
For a more interesting, engaging, and informative character inspired by Ruth Madoff, read Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand. It’s much more layered, nuanced and enjoyable.
The World’s End
I was hoping for so much more from this movie. This story of an immature man leading his adult friends on an epic pub crawl in their home town could have been a real hoot. With hints of The Hangover, The Stepford Wives and The Midwich Cuckoos behind it, there was plenty of material to weave into a compelling story.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe it’s the difference between British and American humor. Maybe it’s a guy thing. Or maybe it’s just that the pub crawl seemed to go on forever, but I just could not get into this film. Simon Pegg must have had a great time playing the bad-ass teen in combat boots and a duster—the kind of boy who probably made his own youth miserable—but I found his character just plain annoying. When the plot hits a turning point in the men’s room of a pub, I thought, “Finally! Now it’s going to get interesting.” But no.
Instead The World’s End falls into the tired Hollywood pattern of increasing violence building up to a cataclysm. Yawn. The five post-apocalypse minutes at the end of the movie are the best part. Other than that, I recommend staying home and having a beer.
Meh. This movie had possibilities—and a good cast—but eventually went nowhere. Eric Bana and Rebecca Hall are wasted in this limp, insipid production. It’s more like a drawn out BBC production on Masterpiece Mystery than a movie. And the BBC usually does a better job.
Catch it on TV.