When waltzing on unstable heights of affluence | Sunday Observer

When waltzing on unstable heights of affluence

26 January, 2020

In the world of Hollywood, few directors have over the years, shown the kind of versatility in craft and style that one sees in the body of work by Woody Allen.

Allen’s 2013 movie Blue Jasmine is a dark comedy drama film that echoes the well known quote “A fool and his money are soon parted”, as the story of Jasmine Francis played by Cate Blanchette shows her descent from the heights of being a rich Manhattan socialite who falls on hard times after her husband is found guilty of financial crimes, and has to find refuge with her working class sister in San Francisco. Blue Jasmine looks at the ‘American dream’, founded on glamorous hyper consumerism and what the price would be for high living on the ‘facade of money’.

Blanchette delivers a commendable performance as the protagonist whose very mental wellbeing comes to be threatened in the face of being compelled to realise that her life of high living which was built on a fraudster’s finance gimmicks has come to an end and that the working class life of her sister’s world is what is very likely her own future.

There are two principal lines of thought that I felt the film brings out in terms of what can be learnt through the dilemma wracked Jasmine, after the ‘dream’ collapses and unseats her both socio-economically, and psychologically. On the matter of relationships –‘Honesty is always the best policy’. On the matter of money making –‘Easy come, easy go’.

This easiness of money to both enter and exit one’s life is shown through Jasmine’s husband Hal Francis, played suavely by Alec Baldwin, whose great wealth turns out to be money made through financial scamming of investments. Hal even goes to the extent of luring in Jasmine’s sister and husband when they entrust the $200,000 they’d won from a lottery in hopes of a ‘high return’, since Hal assures them ‘low risk’ in a particular venture he has in mind. The end result is of course that it’s all lost.

The story is narrated between two timelines; Jasmine’s present state of penury living with her working class sister, and her former life of luxury that ended with her husband committing suicide in prison after he’s convicted for his corrupt business practices. Jasmine’s present is a reality she wants to climb out of desperately. But putting one’s life back together, or to recreate one’s image and get back in the saddle is far easier dreamt than actually achieved. This isn’t a movie that has a happy ending. Its purpose seems more to speak lucidly through the medium of film a sound moral lesson when it comes to money and relationships in life.

The worth of money must never be underestimated, but how fast one makes it can also give a hint of how fast it can be lost. A lesson as that is embedded in Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Money can determine to a great extent where one is placed in society, especially, in a place like USA. It’s not solely about what money can afford for epicurean indulgence, but recognition, respect, image, and so on, or in short – ‘status.’

When everyone wants to be ‘up on the deal’, and will have no regard for scruples when it comes to getting what will ‘carry you up’; which could be money, or getting hitched to a ‘moneyed person’, the result could be that the person seeking upward mobility may invariably lead the ‘climber’ to get flushed down the pipe. Jasmine’s lack of honesty about who she is and how her late husband died, etc, when she wants to meet a ‘nice man’, to get back in the saddle, eventually sees her hopes get dashed when a ‘too good to be real’ suitor calls it off when he discovers that Jasmine’s past had been hidden from him.

Just because you like something, want it badly, doesn’t mean that the ends will justify the means used to get it. That can be said about money, and also relationships that are linked with material goals. And the larger implication made in the context of it all is, even if one does manage to get it somehow, how long can what is gained from deception and illusion last? Allen’s work of dark comedy Blue Jasmine offers much food for thought in the context of what it means to live pragmatically in a material world.