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Sunday, September 15, 2013

"Blue Jasmine" Filmmaking so Inept it Cheats the Moviegoer


"Blue Jasmine"'s ineptitude angered and offended me. Moviegoers deserve better than this amateurish botch. This review reveals key plot points. Don't read this review if you don't want to know what happens. Let's face it, though, not a lot happens in "Blue Jasmine." What does happen onscreen is devoid of artistic truth, verisimilitude, insight or craft.

Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is the beautiful widow of Hal Francis, a Bernie-Madoff like corrupt wheeler-dealer. The FBI has caught up with Hal and arrested him. He commits suicide in prison. Jasmine travels from NYC to San Francisco to live with her sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins). Ginger used to be married to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) but Ginger is currently involved with Chili (Bobby Cannavale.)

Jasmine tries to make a go of it. There is some tension as she is living in her sister's apartment. Jasmine gets a job, meets a man, and studies interior decorating. Things go badly and the movie ends exactly as it begins: with Jasmine talking to herself.

And that's it. That's the entire waste-of-your-time movie.

The premise is tremendous: how the wife of a Bernie-Madoff style wheeler dealer copes with her sudden stratospheric loss of income and prestige. Does she sink or swim? Is she redeemed or doomed? "Blue Jasmine" does nothing with those fascinating questions. Things are at the end of the movie exactly as they were at the beginning.

Woody Allen wrote a lifeless, inept script.

Allen tosses one potential plot element into the film after another: the aforementioned loss of money and status, mental illness, abusive relationships, adultery, prescription drugs, class relations, sister relationships, adoption, step parenting, sexual harassment at the workplace. Then Allen does absolutely nothing with any of these.

We see Hal kissing women not his wife. We see Augie talking to Hal about money. We see working class people drinking beer and watching sports on TV. None of this goes anywhere. It's all just aborted, disjointed scenes with zero verisimilitude; hollow scenes that arouse not one whit of care or involvement. I didn't believe anything in this movie. Every character's dialogue sounds so similar that I was painfully aware that it was not real people's speech, but words written by Woody Allen. Events occur with no believability.

Jasmine drops a dime on Hal as soon as he tells her that he wants to leave her for another woman. A con artist of Hal's magnitude would not do something so na├»ve as to tell his wife, who knows of his financial misdeeds, that he is going to dump her. She would obviously get revenge the only way she can – by immediately phoning the FBI.

Ginger is a two dimensional character. No reason is given for her to do anything she does, including taking in Jasmine. Jasmine had been rude to her earlier in the film, and Ginger is not a particularly nice person. The movie takes pains to tell us that Jasmine and Ginger were adopted, and this information serves no point whatsoever. There's no reason for Ginger to have two men: Augie and Chili are virtually the same character. Jasmine has a step son; there's no reason for him not to be her real son.

The movie tells us that Jasmine is on edge, alone and without resources. The movie lies; in other scenes, the movie tells us that Jasmine is utterly irresistible to men. Every man she meets wants to make love to her, date her, and marry her. Surely one of Hal's friends, as soon as Hal went to prison, would have scooped up luscious Jasmine, and Jasmine would have accepted.

The movie tells us that Jasmine is the kind of resourceful woman who can be born poor and marry one of the richest men in the country. How did that change and how did Jasmine become a pathetic basket case? It's just not believable.

A diplomat proposes marriage to Jasmine after dating her for about fifteen minutes. Not believable. Then he immediately cancels the engagement because Jasmine is not what he had thought. Also not believable.

It's impossible to care about any of the characters in the film, from the smarmy dentist to the diplomat who proposes to Jasmine, not just because none of them are nice or even rational people, but because they are boring, two dimensional, and lifeless.

Cate Blanchett's performance is excellent. I did get sick of the tic Allen had her, or allowed her, to perform over and over: shaking Xanax tablets out of a brown prescription bottle into her hand and swallowing them down, followed by a swig of vodka. This gesture was repeated so many times it became stale. Yes, yes, we get it – Jasmine is a nervous wreck.

This movie bugs me because it is so amazingly badly made. The most basic manual on how to construct a plot or develop a character would have steered Allen away from the choices he made. I'm angry that reviewers gave his mess a thumb's up. It's troubling that there are gifted scriptwriters out there who can't get produced while Allen's big name lures filmgoers.

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