I am the only human being who hates Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.
I hated Blue Jasmine in New York, when I saw it at the BAM Harvey Theater. My revulsion for the film was so strong that I forced myself to see it again, this time nearly 3,000 miles west of Brooklyn at the ArcLight in Hollywood. The geographical distance between the two viewings wasn’t on purpose—that would be insane, and I’m not that kind of insane. (I moved out to L.A. after the BAM screening, so there.)
The second viewing held up—I hated it again. Clearly there is something wrong with me. How is it possible that I can’t see Blue Jasmine for the obvious tour de force that it is?
I roam the Los Angeles section of Earth, alienated from the rest of Woody-stroking mankind. People don’t see me. Even mirrors have stopped reflecting my image. I don’t have much time. But then again, I could live a hundred lifetimes and never come close to touching Woody Allen in comedy, film, or even romantic love—so this whole introspective exploration of mine may come off as the bullshit a jealous, struggling comedian with an MFA in creative writing would hack up. That’s probably part of it. But how about you take a look at my reasons below, before I disappear?
There’s no way you’ll hate this as much as I hate Blue Jasmine.
WARNING: So many insufferable spoilers to follow.
1. Woody’s Passion of the Christ
Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen’s Passion of the Christ. For almost an hour and 40 minutes Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) has the living shit beaten out of her, and we’re supposed to laugh—even though there is no redemption at the end of this crucifixion.
Jasmine goes from riches to rags after her criminal husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin)—a Bernie Madoff-cutout with amazing hair—is sent to federal prison. Jasmine flees across the country to San Francisco to live with her lower-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins), until she, Jasmine, is able to get her life straightened out. That’s the plan. Hal also screwed Ginger and her ex-husband out of $200,000, so Jasmine, the former New York socialite is the perfect, easy target to beat up.
Jasmine is a sick woman—she’s had electroshock therapy (“Edison’s medicine”) and is medicated throughout the film, whether it’s prescription pills or self-prescribed vodka martinis, or both—and Blanchett’s performance is so convincing that I found it nearly impossible to laugh at her. That’s what makes the “jokey” scenes so unfunny. Like the one where her sister’s boyfriend, Chili (Bobby Cannavale)—someone who is well aware of Jasmine’s emotional breakdown—jokes around about Hal’s jailhouse suicide. Both audiences with whom I watched the move laughed it up. I cringed.
Now with all the laughter at Jasmine’s expense, you’d think there would come at least one moment of redemption, maybe some growth. But Woody won’t have it. No, Jasmine almost starts a new life with her fiancé, Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard)—remember how moving it was to watch her break down crying after his first phone call—but that gets squashed in the end. Maybe she’ll get back together with her estranged son? Nope. He still hates her and wants nothing to do with her. Victimized throughout the film, perhaps Jasmine was just another one of her cheating husband’s victims? Nah. It turns out she knew all along what he was up to. She even snitched on him.
So when Jasmine is left broken and shaking, sitting on a public bench, talking to herself—well, the bitch is getting what she deserves! And we get to stick the spear in her side. Hilarious!
2. Boardwalk Empire
If you’re going to create a world that lacks empathy, then you might as well populate it with gangsters.
Various players from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire appear in Blue Jasmine. They all give good performances. Bobby Cannavale (who plays Gyp Rosetti in season three) plays Chili here. Not only does Chili rock the same Prohibition-era coif, but he also manages to maintain some of Rosetti’s cruelty. (See the suicide-banter scene I mention above.)
Michael Stuhlbarg who plays Boardwalk Empire‘sArnold Rothstein is a dentist in Blue Jasmine, who, after giving Jasmine a job working reception in his office, attempts to seduce her with creepy come-ons and eventually old timey sexual assault.
Why even Glenn Fleshler, who plays George Reemus on Boardwalk (you know the guy who refers to himself in the third person)—even he makes a cameo during one of the movie’s party scenes. Although he has no lines and is billed simply as “Hal and Jasmine’s Friend,” I imagine that when Jasmine walks by him in the scene, he squeezes out a fart that chips away at her psyche.
3. Andrew “Dice” Clay
Honestly, I went to see Blue Jasmine because of Andrew “Dice” Clay. I’d heard about how great he was in the film—people are genuinely amazed he can pull off a role so different from the onstage personae he created decades ago. He wasn’t even Ford Fairlane in this flick—he was Augie, Jasmine’s working-class ex-brother-in-law, whom Jasmine’s husband screws over. And Dice is really good, but we just don’t see enough of him in the film. That’s a shame.
Ultimately Augie and his wife, Ginger, divorce—due to their financial ruin, we suspect—and Ginger ends up dating Chili, who’s another working-class guy. Now you’ll notice something interesting: you never see Augie and Chili in the same room at the same time—because they’re basically the same character. But not in a Bruce Wayne/Batman kind of way. They’re the same character in a you-really-should-have-fused-them-into-one-character kind of way. Then you’d actually have a complex person on your hands.
Like, I wonder: what if Augie and Ginger had stayed together, in spite of their financial disaster, and here they are welcoming into their home the sister who’s at least partially responsible for their fuck-over? In that situation you could actually develop Augie, and we could see what Dice, the actor, can really do.
Also, if Augie and his wife had stayed together, it would have made her affair with Al (Louis C.K.) all the more challenging and substantial, wouldn’t it?
But instead, Augie becomes a plot device: he’s plopped in towards the end of the film to spoil Jasmine’s charade with her new fiancé and to deliver exposition about her estranged son. It’s a really weak chance encounter. Augie deserves more. But instead we hear that he’s off to Alaska to work on an oil pipeline… What a fate for a man we never knew.
4. Bad Man
Jasmine’s ex-husband, Hal, is a bad man. He defrauded people for millions of dollars. Bad man! He cheated on his wife countless times. Bad man! He was a crook. Bad. He’s “the real loser”! Bad! Bad! Bad!
How many times do we have to be reminded that Hal was a bad guy, Woody? Because you’re telling us in every other scene!
5. Computer Class!
Now we come to the part of Blue Jasmine that put me over the edge.
Jasmine is taking a computer class…
But it’s not a class in Final Cut or Photoshop—no. The year is circa 2013, and this woman, who is in her forties, who attended college (at least for a short while)—and was even an anthropology major—is taking a class to learn how to use a PC. She doesn’t know how to use a desktop, yet she’s working in a dentist’s office?
But that’s not even the most ridiculous thing. What’s even more ridiculous is that there are other students in the class! And most of these extras are even younger than Jasmine!
You can pummel your fallen socialite all you want, Woody Allen. But this? This technological anachronism is unforgivable! And not even Jasmine, nailed to her park bench, can redeem you for it.