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Blue Jasmine

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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Maria Faustina Kowalska: St. Faustina's name is forever linked to the annual feast of the Divine Mercy (celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter), the divine mercy chaplet and the divine mercy prayer recited each day at 3 p.m. by many people. 
<p>Born in what is now west-central Poland (part of Germany before World War I), Helena Kowalska was the third of 10 children. She worked as a housekeeper in three cities before joining the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925. She worked as a cook, gardener and porter in three of their houses. </p><p>In addition to carrying out her work faithfully, generously serving the needs of the sisters and the local people, she also had a deep interior life. This included receiving revelations from the Lord Jesus, messages that she recorded in her diary at the request of Christ and of her confessors. </p><p>At a time when some Catholics had an image of God as such a strict judge that they might be tempted to despair about the possibility of being forgiven, Jesus chose to emphasize his mercy and forgiveness for sins acknowledged and confessed. “I do not want to punish aching mankind,” he once told St. Faustina, “but I desire to heal it, pressing it to my merciful heart” (<i>Diary</i> 1588). The two rays emanating from Christ's heart, she said, represent the blood and water poured out after Jesus' death (John 19:34) </p><p>Because Sister Maria Faustina knew that the revelations she had already received did not constitute holiness itself, she wrote in her diary: “Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God” (<i>Diary</i> 1107). </p><p>Sister Maria Faustina died of tuberculosis in Krakow, Poland, on October 5, 1938. Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1993 and canonized her seven years later.</p> American Catholic Blog Since Christians are brought into God’s family through Christ, and since we share in God’s life-giving grace, we are united in a unique and powerful way. This allows us to love and care for one another, as we are commanded to do.

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