Even though I try to see every Woody Allen film, I became particularly intrigued by “Blue Jasmine (2013)” because Allen filmed some of it in San Francisco. I’m used to seeing my city portrayed in many films as a romantic destination and a place to find true love. As a consequence, I find that the romanticized version of San Francisco in many films does not quite fit the reality of this big city. Allen’s film depicts the city in a decidedly “overcast” mood.
Blue Jasmine tells the story of Jasmine Francis (Cate Blanchette), a women who goes from influencing the social calendar in New York City to moving in with her sister in a small apartment in the Mission District, San Francisco. As a privileged wife of the very successful but crooked businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin), Jasmine spent her days in New York doing yoga and Pilates while arranging lunches and parties with her rich girlfriends. Meanwhile, Hal swindled investors while cheating on Jasmine with a parade of au pairs, personal trainers and other assorted romantic accomplices. Allen tells the New York part of the story in flashback.
We meet Jasmine as she arrives in San Francisco, having lost all of her former life when Hal is arrested and sent to prison for his fraudulent behavior. She’s not only lost in this new environment, with little coping skills, but she must also find a way to reconnect with her far more humble sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Having spent the bulk of her adult life in luxury, Jasmine must now deal with the unpleasant reality of making of living despite having no skills for the real world. The arrogant Jasmine scoffs at doing menial labor, but must accept a job as a receptionist in a dental office.
Ginger can do little to help her pill-popping, vodka swilling sister Jasmine. This movie is a portrait of an arrogant and unrelenting “mess,” with little apparent chance at redemption. Things go from bad to worse as Jasmine clings to reality, talking to herself and blurting out inappropriate comments that nevertheless elicit a small degree of sympathy from people unaware of her plight. The viewer can only marvel at Blanchette’s mesmerizing intensity in the title role. Her performance makes the movie a must-see.
A major part of Jasmine’s downfall concerns her loss of influence. Whatever respect she garnered as a socialite in New York means nothing in San Francisco. However, she does influence her sister to rethink her attraction to her current boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale), who Jasmine thinks is a “loser.” Ginger begins to look for a new man, which causes even more family discord. Cannavale’s Chili and Ginger’s former husband Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) are not really losers but just simple and good guys. But, they seem more like guys you’d see in New York rather than types you see here in San Francisco. Blue Jasmine is an engrossing tale of two cities.