Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has had a
precipitous fall from grace. She once
was high society
New York City
, with an enormously successful and fabulously wealthy husband, Hal (Alex
Baldwin), who loved to spoil her. She
loved to tell the story about how she didn’t finish college because he just
swept her off her feet. She obviously
enjoys the upscale shopping, the lingering lunches at elegant restaurants, the
parties, the ritual cocktail hour, the spontaneous gifts of expensive jewelry.
They never really got around to having children.
Their lives just seemed so full already, there just didn’t seem to be
any more time. She pretended to know
little about the high finances and Hal’s leveraged entrepreneurship; she
just signed what he wanted her to sign and had another vodka martini.
Then it all came undone.
Jasmine sensed that she was turning a blind eye to that which she did
not wish to see. But she had no idea
how many affairs Hal had been enjoying until she actually caught him, and then
he tries to tell her he’s in love. So,
in a fit of vengeful pique, she calls the FBI on him, figuring that was a way
to really hit him where it hurt. But
she wasn’t astute enough to figure out that it would make the bottom fall
out of her world, as well. They lost
everything, Hal went to prison, and bewildered Jasmine, designer luggage in
hand, knows nothing to do other than show up at the door of her sister, Ginger
It’s a clever plot ploy to establish
that both sisters were adopted so they don’t have to look a thing like each
other, and they don’t. In fact,
they’re pretty much complete opposites: Ginger
is short and dark and wiry; Jasmine is tall and blond and elegant.
Ginger works at a grocery store in the produce department.
Her ex-husband was a handyman who still blames Jasmine for advising him
to invest what little money he had with Hal. They
have two young boys who are about as interesting as pillowcases.
Ginger has a boyfriend who’s a mechanic; he dotes on Ginger but
isn’t gentlemanly enough to be nice to Jasmine, whom he sees as not only a
freeloader, but a snobby one, at that, and one who is actively trying to
prevent him from getting it on with Ginger.
Jasmine is desperate, but has never
really had to take care of herself, and doesn’t know how now.
She doesn’t realize what an imposition she is.
She’s either unaware of how haughty and imperious she can be, or
somehow feels she’s only being truthful. She
never has any impulse to help anyone else, but will gladly accept any rescuing
anybody wishes to do for her. When she
finally meets a suitor whose casual largesse suggests good “breeding”
(read “old money”), she can barely contain her enthusiasm at being
presented with the “right” opportunity, and she’s not going to let a
little thing like complete honesty stand in the way.
If Jasmine is this despicable, why do we
like her? Because her vulnerability
makes her compelling? Because we, too,
want to take care of her? Because
she’s charming and complicated and elegant, and we’d like for her to find
herself comfortably ensconced in her fairyland bubble again?
Or is it just because Cate Blanchett is so incredibly powerful in this
role that we cannot help but root for her character?
This performance feels like an Oscar
nomination. The Woody Allen movie
itself will probably not break box office records; most of us 99% don’t
really enjoy watching the 1% look down
their noses at us, and won’t really want to pay to see it.
But Jasmine is a classic tragic character not easily forgotten.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, St. Stephen’s