Local Blogs

Off Hours

By Anita Felicelli

E-mail Anita Felicelli

About this blog: I grew up in Palo Alto and now live in Mountain View with my husband, daughter and two corgis. After about a decade grappling with the law, first as a law student at UC Berkeley and then as a litigator around the Bay Area, I left ...  (More)

View all posts from Anita Felicelli

Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen's San Francisco

Uploaded: Aug 13, 2013
Just a few minutes away from Google headquarters and the Computer History Museum, my husband and I were watching a blank screen at Century 16. We were waiting for Woody Allen's forty-eighth film Blue Jasmine to start, but in spite of our location, it was delayed by technical difficulties. We're suckers for Woody Allen—particularly for the atmospheric escapism involved in watching self-absorbed Manhattanites get into trouble while a jazzy soundtrack plays. Also for clever movies like Zelig.

We find more than half of Woody Allen's movies are subpar, like watching the scene in Being John Malcovich where John Malcovich playing himself can say nothing but "Malcovich, Malcovich" in various intonations. And yet in spite of duds like Melinda and Melinda we remain excited every year when a new movie comes out.

I've often wondered if Allen asks his actors to channel him, or if he's so distinctive they just can't help but channel him when given certain lines. A break-up scene in Blue Jasmine is particularly funny in this regard—both Blanchett and her significant other do Woody Allen impressions. It's Woody Allen breaking up with himself.

Blue Jasmine is extremely entertaining, a joky Streetcar Named Desire set in New York and San Francisco. The story revolves around the crack-up of an extremely wealthy New Yorker, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), after her husband Hal (Alec Baldwin) commits suicide in prison.

Jasmine comes to San Francisco to stay with her adoptive sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), a working class woman forever going out with modern-day incarnations of Streetcar's Stanley Kowalski. Jasmine claims to be broke, but flies first class and arrives carrying Louis Vuitton bags. Ginger's boyfriend Augie sees Jasmine for what she is: a heartless phony. A series of flashbacks explain how Jasmine lost her money.

Left in another actress's hands, Jasmine would be another of Woody Allen's many wooden female characters as seen through the eyes of some neurotic male. But Cate Blanchett's genius is to leave us constantly guessing and engaged in her internal struggle. She plays Jasmine as a particularly complex Blanche du Bois, fighting off the advances of her boss one moment, washing down Xanax with vodka the next.

The movie is set in San Francisco—I was expecting some of the magic of Midnight in Paris applied to yet another of the world's most remarkable cities. Instead Woody Allen chose to manufacture his own alternate San Francisco, made recognizable only by a standard shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, a Chinatown intersection, and a scene at a cold beach.

A San Francisco in which schlubby guys played by Louis C.K. and Andrew Dice Clay wear ill-fitting, mismatched outfits and talk like they're construction workers from New York City. It's as if Allen has never really visited San Francisco, nor even watched another movie set there.

In spite of these directorial choices, Blue Jasmine is well worth watching if only to see Blanchett's Jasmine, one of the most remarkable performances on screen in recent history.

Have you seen Blue Jasmine yet? Is this a San Francisco you recognize?

Comments

Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community,
on Aug 13, 2013 at 6:43 pm

You are aware he made two other movies in SF, right? And nearly 40% of SF residents were born in other countries...why would someone from NY be a surprise?


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Aug 13, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Anita Felicelli is a registered user.

Sparty, Yes, I am aware. It's not that it's one person from NY or that I'm unaware of San Francisco's diversity. It's that Woody Allen usually tries to get the feeling of a city and its residents somewhat recognizable. Consider Vicky Cristina Barcelona or any of the movies set entirely in Manhattan. He received partial funding from the San Francisco Film Commission, no doubt at least partially on that basis. I'm not the only person surprised by this depiction by the way. If this subject interests you, read this:

Web Link.

Or this: Web Link.


Posted by Sparty, a resident of another community,
on Aug 14, 2013 at 1:53 am

Anyone who has done even the most cursory review of Wood Allen's work would know that he made different kinds of movies at different times.

Are we going to debate the lack of references to classic psychoanalysis references in Bananas to compared to Annie Hall? Or in Take the Money and Run versus Curse of the Jade Scorpion?


Posted by member of another community, a resident of another community,
on Aug 14, 2013 at 4:47 pm

I would see it for Blanchett - love her pictures! Woody Allen not so much.


Posted by Tristan Thomas, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Aug 14, 2013 at 5:26 pm

So I'm not the only one who thinks Woody Allen phoned that one in?

for the record, I don't think there are even free weights anywhere in San Francisco, much less two buffed up Stanley Kowalskis in our midst


Posted by Anita Felicelli, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Aug 14, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Blanchett is so gifted and perfect for this role that she makes the film well worth watching, but Woody Allen's script isn't all that sharp. And after 3 years working in an increasingly affluent San Francisco, I feel pretty confident that two Kowalskis would not have the financial resources to live there...


Posted by member, a resident of another community,
on Aug 14, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I like some Woody Allen films, will have to see whether I like this one. expectations have been set low!


Posted by Dianna, a resident of another community,
on Aug 18, 2013 at 2:42 am

I was offended by Woody's depiction of SF. It clearly showed to me that he has no understanding of the people who live here. I am a 24 year resident. Still enjoyed the movie and Cate Blanchett's performance, but he is way off in his understanding of the kind of person it takes to survive this city.


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Marriage Underachievers
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,589 views

Politics: Empty appeals to "innovation"
By Douglas Moran | 13 comments | 1,584 views

A Surprise!
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 1,511 views

Best High Dives to Watch the Game
By Laura Stec | 4 comments | 1,063 views

It's Dog-O-Ween this Saturday!
By Cathy Kirkman | 2 comments | 792 views