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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Blue Jasmine

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin star in a scene from the movie "Blue Jasmine."

At his best, Woody Allen is a brilliant writer-director of comedic films as insightful as they are hilarious. But in his latest venture, "Blue Jasmine" (Sony Classics), Allen turns the lights down low, presenting the dark and depressing tale of a crazed woman whose life is spiraling out of control. The grim tone comes as no real surprise, though, since Allen's inspiration here is Tennessee Williams' classic play "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Thus his title character, played by Cate Blanchett, experiences a decline that parallels the deterioration of Williams' doomed heroine Blanche DuBois. Unfortunately, despite a bravura performance by Blanchett, "Blue Jasmine" misfires by trying to derive most of its humor from Jasmine's mental illness -- anything but a laughing matter.

In a story that might have been ripped from the headlines, Jasmine is a Park Avenue socialite fallen on hard times. She had no idea her high-rolling financier husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), was both a philanderer and a fraud. Hal's Ponzi-like scheme, which destroyed the fortunes of his investors, has landed him in prison and Jasmine on the street. Already delusional and an alcoholic, she suffers a nervous breakdown. With nowhere to turn, Jasmine heads west for San Francisco, to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). It's a risky choice, as Ginger and her ex-husband, Augie (Andrew Dice Clay), invested in Hal's enterprise and lost their life savings, which in turn destroyed their marriage.

To Ginger's credit, she puts familial bonds above past hurts, and shelters Jasmine. But Jasmine's gratitude quickly turns to disgust. She's repelled by Ginger's middle-class lifestyle and, especially, by her beefy mechanic boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale). As she descends into madness on a diet of vodka and Xanax, Jasmine strikes out in all directions. She makes a stab at self-improvement, taking a receptionist job and computer classes. She also decides to remake Ginger's seemingly happy life, encouraging her to dump Chili and seek a "better" match in respectable salesman Al (Louis C.K.) -- with disastrous results. But Jasmine is not made for hard labor or study, only for shallow appearances.

She finds a potential means of escape in Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), a wealthy diplomat with political ambitions. Jasmine puts on a good show, concealing her past while presenting herself as an ideal and sophisticated partner. She comes close to pulling it off. In the end, "Blue Jasmine" plays the selfish card. It's every character for him- or herself, seemingly without concern for the welfare of others, least of all Jasmine.

The film contains cohabitation, implied nonmarital sexual activity, an adultery theme and much profane and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Katharine Drexel: If your father is an international banker and you ride in a private railroad car, you are not likely to be drawn into a life of voluntary poverty. But if your mother opens your home to the poor three days each week and your father spends half an hour each evening in prayer, it is not impossible that you will devote your life to the poor and give away millions of dollars. Katharine Drexel did that. 
<p>She was born in Philadelphia in 1858. She had an excellent education and traveled widely. As a rich girl, she had a grand debut into society. But when she nursed her stepmother through a three-year terminal illness, she saw that all the Drexel money could not buy safety from pain or death, and her life took a profound turn. </p><p>She had always been interested in the plight of the Indians, having been appalled by what she read in Helen Hunt Jackson’s <i>A Century of Dishonor</i>. While on a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and asked him to send more missionaries to Wyoming for her friend Bishop James O’Connor. The pope replied, “Why don’t you become a missionary?” His answer shocked her into considering new possibilities. </p><p>Back home, Katharine visited the Dakotas, met the Sioux leader Red Cloud and began her systematic aid to Indian missions. </p><p>She could easily have married. But after much discussion with Bishop O’Connor, she wrote in 1889, “The feast of St. Joseph brought me the grace to give the remainder of my life to the Indians and the Colored.” Newspaper headlines screamed “Gives Up Seven Million!” </p><p>After three and a half years of training, she and her first band of nuns (Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored) opened a boarding school in Santa Fe. A string of foundations followed. By 1942 she had a system of black Catholic schools in 13 states, plus 40 mission centers and 23 rural schools. Segregationists harassed her work, even burning a school in Pennsylvania. In all, she established 50 missions for Indians in 16 states. </p><p>Two saints met when Katharine was advised by Mother Cabrini about the “politics” of getting her Order’s Rule approved in Rome. Her crowning achievement was the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans, the first Catholic university in the United States for African Americans. </p><p>At 77, she suffered a heart attack and was forced to retire. Apparently her life was over. But now came almost 20 years of quiet, intense prayer from a small room overlooking the sanctuary. Small notebooks and slips of paper record her various prayers, ceaseless aspirations and meditation. She died at 96 and was canonized in 2000.</p> American Catholic Blog Our task during these forty days is to examine our lives in light of God’s Word and see where we’ve allowed darkness to creep in, where we’ve taken the bait of the diabolical fisher of men. It’s time to use the sword of the Spirit to cut through his web of deception, to free ourselves from the net that holds us as prey.


 
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