Blue Jasmine ★★★

I’m not a big fan of Woody Allen's films. There’s something about his voice, the way he develops his characters, and the manner in which he structures his stories that simply don’t resonate with me. Every couple of years I try my best to engage with one of his films, but it ultimately leaves me wondering why I bothered.

There’s craftsmanship, clearly, and it shows in the talents of his directing and his cast, and that’s true of most of the films of his which I’ve watched. Blue Jasmine is no different - it’s a visually beautiful film, with a great soundtrack, and the acting is nothing short of stellar.

And yet, this film did very little for me except reinforce Cate Blanchett’s incredible acting chops.

The narrative’s framework, bouncing to and fro temporally, bound to Jasmine’s current state of mind, is a compelling way to capture this narrative’s key moments. But the narrative doesn’t seem to move us anywhere. It’s a recounting of what led Jasmine to her current state, and a demonstration of how her mental perspective and behaviour affect the few people who occupy her life. And yet, I didn’t feel as though the story progressed or gave its characters anything close to a compelling arc. There’s a severe lack of poignancy, and nothing to tie it back to a central message. It feels lost in itself. This is exemplified by the supporting cast’s characters, who drift in and out of the core narrative without really adding anything to it - they’re great on their own, but don’t support as much as they do distract.

I’ve read reviews extolling the brave nature of the film’s ending - that it’s a statement about mental health, even extrapolated to be a statement on the American mental health system. Sure, you can read into that here, but I disagree. It strikes me as just a convenient – and perhaps lazy – way to close the film without seeking any substance to Jasmine’s condition. It shows us where she is, as the dust begins to settle on recent events. But it leaves us holding the bag to find our own conclusion and decide what it all means - both for her, and for her story.

I’m all for films that don’t seek resolution, that don’t have happy endings. But to sit for an hour and a half with a character, learning about her life, hardships and failings, I expect a conclusion that feels like it has intention - that the arc has fulfilled its path in some way. As an audience, we can surely be denied any satisfaction in a story arc without feeling frustrated, but when the arc itself is truncated like this film’s is, it just feels clumsy and trying.

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