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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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