Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Blue Jasmine

I saw Woody Allen's latest film at the Balboa earlier this month.

Blue Jasmine starring Cate Blanchett; with Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C. K. & Peter Sarsgaard; directed by Woody Allen; (2013) - Official Website

Well reviewed, I'll keep my comments on Blue Jasmine short.  Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is a disgraced New York socialite.  Her husband (Alec Baldwin) has committed suicide after being arrested for Madoff-style financial improprieties.  Jasmine is forced to relocate to San Francisco to live with her adopted sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins).  It's quite a step down the social ladder for Jasmine.  Honestly, I don't see how Ginger can afford the SOMA flat she has when she is working as a cashier in a small grocery store but let's not delve into the dynamics the San Francisco rental housing market or rent control laws.

Jasmine attempts to right herself by taking a job with a dentist and dating a diplomat with political aspirations.  However, she is plagued by these glass-eyed dissociative disorders.  She's popping Xanax like breath mints and is a barely functional alcoholic.  She has a lot to be anxious about.  As the film progresses, it jumps back and forth to Jasmine's life in New York to her life in San Francisco.  Baldwin is great as Jasmine's philandering husband.  Baldwin always plays those wealthy scumbag roles to the hilt and Blue Jasmine is no exception.

In addition to dealing with her husband, there is a lot of history between Jasmine and her sister.  A few years earlier, Ginger and her husband (Andrew Dice Clay) won the lottery.  Jasmine convinced them to invest the lottery winnings with her husband who promptly stole it.  Now divorced, Ginger lacks bitterness towards her sister; probably because she is easily and frequently manipulated by her.  Jasmine quickly sows discords into Ginger's relationship with her boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale) and Ginger takes things further by having an affair with a married audio engineer (Louis C.K.).

I'll leave the plot recap at that.  By the end of the film, we learn that Jasmine was a lot more complicit in her own misery than she commonly lets on.  With few life skills and even fewer people who care about her, her future looks bleak.

The cast is uniformly outstanding.  I've read that Clay and Cannavale portray their characters more like New Jersey Guidos than any recognizable San Francisco stereotype but fortunately they don't take up much screen time.  The scenes with Blanchett and Baldwin or Blanchett and Hawkins or Blanchett and anyone else are the ones that really grab one's attention.  Blanchett vividly portrays this pathetic woman.  I went from being annoyed with her to disliking her to pitying her to hating her to being frustrated by her to being exhausted by her which must be what it would be like to actually interact with a woman like Jasmine.  Take all of Annie Hall's idiosyncrasies and insecurities, add in copious amounts of alcohol and prescription drugs, mix with a bastard of a husband, apply to a vaguely amoral woman and you have Blue Jasmine.  A tragedy with moments of comedy, Blue Jasmine is a highwater mark for Allen's late career films.  I run hot and cold on his films but Blue Jasmine was one of the best films I've seen all year.  Cate Blanchett's performance was tremendous.

The soundtrack to Blue Jasmine was very memorable.  The song Blue Moon is repeatedly played throughout.  In addition, Allen infuses the film with his trademark love of jazz and blues which happens to roughly coincide with my taste in music.


The Balboa's Kickstarter campaign convert to digital is quickly coming to an end.  Having surpassed their $75,000 goal by more than 20%, the Balboa has set an unofficial goal of $100,000 by the end of the campaign (September 26, 2013 at 11:59 PM PDT).  I noticed they have already put metal nameplates on the armrests of the chairs to recognize donors; that's at the $500 donation level.


Despite an abundance of restaurants near the Balboa Theater, I've always considered the area a bit of a culinary wasteland.  Sometime I go to Little Henry's.  I have always assumed the Little Henry's in the Outer Richmond is affiliated with the Little Henry's in the Tenderloin but the food tastes much better at the Tenderloin location.  Occasionally, I'll go to Americana Grill which despite its name has a fair amount of Asian food on the menu.

On several of my past few trips to the Balboa, I have stopped by Shanghai Dumpling King on the 3300 block of Balboa Ave.  The name says it all.  An order of 10 Shanghai dumplings for $5.50!  I can't say I'm a connoisseur of Shanghainese cuisine but I've Shanghai dumplings elsewhere and SDK's are the best by far and twice as satisfying given their price.  The broth in the dumpling is delicious and not overpowering.  The only downside is there must be a fair amount of salt or MSG in it because I'm thirsty an hour or two after eating them.

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