Blue Jasmine spoilers follow.
Since I loved Midnight in Paris so much (really it warmed my heart), I was looking forward to watching Woody Allen’s latest offering Blue Jasmine. The story that Woody Allen depicts revolves around a post-Great Recession United States where a super-wealthy couple falls apart and loses their stolen wealth, comparing and contrasting Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) life in wealth and life in poverty. The film which is filled with fairly unlikeable characters shows how depressing our avoidance can be. Jasmine, in essence, avoids every negative aspect of her life until it literally implodes. The dysfunction that Blanchet expertly portrays is so troubling, I couldn’t have but remark to myself about how I think followers of Jesus might respond in similar circumstances.
The wealthy don’t always deserve their wealth and aren’t always blessed by God. Jasmine was not only blind to the fact that Hal was a criminal and is an adulterer, she’s blind to the fact that wealth she (and her husband) have happened upon isn’t the result of their good work ethic or their prudence. This myth in the American story is really important to understand. Say what you will about the unbalanced wealth inequality in the U.S., but to consider the extraordinary wealth of the 1, .1. and .01 percent of the U.S. and wonder if those folks are literally deserving of that wealth because of their hard work is an exaggeration.
Jasmine never realizes this. In fact, she utters to her nephews that having wealth is hard work and has responsibility. She’s completely aloof to the fact that she’s living on a cloud totally out-of-touch with most people. She can’t function a computer and she can barely keep up with her office job. Morever, her employer, Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhbarg) comes on to her violently and forces himself to kiss her, shows that wealthy or not, for a woman there are certain privileges than can never be bought.
Moreover, how we have sex matters. Hal’s unfaithfulness ruins his marriage and ruins his future. He even declares to Jasmine that he’s fallen in love with his latest girlfriend. The problems that immoral sex introduces to a relationship are so intense and create fissures so vast that unlike any other sin, this one is doesn’t leave us and is hard to get over. The fact the women are often victims of a society that praises men’s promiscuity is even worse–Hal’s deception ruined Jasmine. And even her son doesn’t empathize with her abuse.
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18
Paul makes a special note to the Corinthians, who were full of sexual immorality, that sex is unique and meaningful. That’s much more than just some friction and the exchange of fluids.
When thinking about Jasmine and Hal’s (Alec Baldwin) criminal wealth and its falling apart I couldn’t help but keep thinking only Jesus should define us. Jasmine’s life is dismantled when she discovers Hal’s adultery, and Hal’s life falls apart when he is imprisoned for her federal crimes. Jasmine’s finally pushed to the edge when she can’t even find solace in her son who has now fully rejected and disowned her (upon finding out that she ratted his dad out). Jasmine needs Hope.
When our marriages fall apart, our jobs get ruined, or our wealth is squandered, whether it is in this world or the next, life goes on. We will do OK, we will survive; we must remember that. It won’t be easy, but we’re also not alone in the world. Jesus expressed in community is a boon to the suffering loner. When we place too much emphasis on fleeting things of the world, when they become who we are and our recovery through them becomes even more difficult.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28
Paul tells us clearly, not just to make a point about equality, but to also emphasize that our worldly identities aren’t what should be defining us. Jesus is the only person that will complete us. Without his presence our lives, not only will the rest disappointment, but when they fail us it will hurt that much more.
Having eyes to see where Jesus is in the people around us is crucially important. Perhaps the only beauty I saw in this film was when Ginger extended her hospitable hand (when her ex and current boyfriend told her it was stupid) to love and care for her judgmental and battered sister. It is better to be gracious.
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13
She follows Paul’s lead in bearing her sister and forgiving her, even when the world might tell her she totally
should’ve left her out of her life. Not only did Hal steal Ginger and her ex Augie’s (Andrew Dice Clay) money, she doesn’t even remotely show her sister an iota of hospitality when the film flashes back to scenes of Ginger and Augie visiting NYC.
I appreciate Ginger’s love for her sister. Extending our gracious and hospitable hand is perhaps the best way we can represent the living Christ in today’s life. Our isolated, private, and self-preserving tendencies are subverted by holy hospitality.
But we need to be shrewd as well, deception and our desires can dominate our lives. Deception doesn’t get us very far. All of a sudden we can find ourselves like Jasmine, not taking care of our children, turning a blind eye to the evil that’s around us, and then finally when we can’t take it anymore acting in a violent fashion. Jasmine continues her path of deception when she makes up lies about her past, when she starts dating Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard’s character). Instead of establishing trust in a relationship her shame and self-deception leads her into another quandary.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9
We actually need to confess to God and to each other. Hiding our sins and bad habits doesn’t build intimacy, but keeps us at arm’s length from each other. Confession is the first step of repentance. I wish Jasmine did more of that.
At the end of the film, as Jasmine’s self-babbling emerges again on a park bench, I’m left with remorse and grace for her. I wish I could be her friend, when her Stoli martinis might be the only one she has left.