Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Strange Case of Blue Jasmine's Computer Class

Woody Allen's latest, Blue Jasmine, contains an excellent performance by Cate Blanchett made all the more impressive by her realistically going through the motions of one of the strangest plot devices I have ever come across in an Allen film.  In the film, Jasmine, a wretched, selfish, despicable woman, needs to take an online interior decorating course but doesn't know how to use a computer.  Her solution is to take a computer course first.  This is, to be kind, nonsensical.

Only because she possesses a smart phone do I know for sure the movie does not take place in 1995 and, thus, might be believable that someone would take a computer course to learn how to take an online course.  This is a sad case of the near 80 years old Woody Allen simply being out of touch with how the world works these days.  And it's a bit jarring.

I liked Blue Jasmine mainly for the performances, even if the characters themselves seemed taken from different eras, genres and planets from one another. And while that kind of thing might be off putting to a viewer, what the movie really needed was a consultant for Woody to show him how the world works nowadays, as in actually works, with technology and all.   Eventually, this kind of thing sinks a movie.

In the world of Blue Jasmine, people still take computer courses to learn how to use computers.  Not computer courses to become programmers.  That's normal.  No, these people are taking classes to learn how to operate something that was made user-friendly to toddlers over fifteen years ago.  Here's how you take an online course in interior decorating:  You google it and then sign up.  Done.

Also, Woody doesn't understand that in this day and age, a diplomatic/politician wannabe who met up with this woman would come nowhere near proposing to her without some extensive googling first.  Seriously, the plot turns - turns that would have worked fine in 1990 - now seem silly in the age of the internet.   In fact, they're unbelievable.  And that hurts the film.

The actors who were more hip to this kind of thing should have let Woody know.  Just a gentle, "So, uh, Woody.  Listen, um, it would probably be better for Jasmine to just sign up for an interior decorating class at the local college than do this computer thing 'cause that doesn't actually work the way you think it does."  That way, she can still meet the lady who invites her to the party that becomes very important to the plot without the moronic plot device that nearly sinks the whole thing.  

Blue Jasmine exists in a world that Woody Allen still thinks exists, and it doesn't.   Somebody should tell him.


Patricia Perry said...

Greg - Brilliant and spot on - couldn't have said it better. This has been a pet peeve of mine in nearly all of Woody's films of the last 10 years or so. I remember an early scene in ANYTHING ELSE that revolved around Jason Biggs waiting for a very late Christina Ricci at a restaurant and not knowing where she was and all I could think was "Why don't these people have CELL PHONES??!!" And it's not just technology where Woody's out of touch, it's how the world works in general. (e.g. Nobody give a tennis pro a job in global finance just because he's such a bright, swell guy on the tennis courts - take THAT MATCH POINT!)
But I've gotta hand it to him: he still gets great performances out of his actors. BLUE JASMINE is full of them.

Greg F. said...

I've missed a lot of Allen's films in the 2000's because I've been disappointed with what I have seen. I love Allen's films quite a bit but, like you, I didn't take to Match Point and Allen is increasingly out of touch with the world he's writing about.

Bill said over on Facebook that maybe that's why Midnight in Paris worked so well because it took place so much in the past. Probably true.

I liked all the performances in Blue Jasmine so much it carried the movie for me.

Robert said...

I've obsessively (maybe sadly, or pathologically) seen every Woody Allen movie. I'm relatively young, and should have noticed this huge, mother-in-Oedipus-Wrecks-sized bump, but I didn't. I can only think that I put it, by now inculcated to WA's stuck-in-time-ness, in the same category as young Jonathan Rhys Meyers spending leisure time on the couch reading Crime & Punishment for goodness sake. I've forgiven him, in perpetuity, for all his charmingly out-of-touch missteps and/or college undergrad philosophy references and am instead (even in the bad ones) warmly comforted by the predictable hues, types, and lines of dialogue. (Faint praise, but you have to know: I truly love whatever you want to call the Woody Allen brand.)

Greg F. said...

Well, honestly, I'm a huge fan of his which is why I liked this film anyway. I'm not saying the computer stuff ruins it but that it would have ruined another film or one with less impressive acting. I don't hate any Allen film, just have ones that are on a lower scale than others.

Hakim said...

ummm, gee. folks i get the point and i agree about the cell phones and all.

and i prolly shouldn't comment on a film i haven't seen, but let's just say that i'm not commenting on the film so much as just answering a comment about people and how they deal with their lives today.

thing is, i have an auntie who did exactly that thing - she took a course in how to work her expensive new computer, how to go online and get the most out of it... and she's no dope.

and patricia: some people got jobs in "global finance" before the meltdown because the departments needed more people to do some of the drudgery. i heard an npr report about the mortgage-backed derivatives that included a guy who was working as a bartender when one of his customers told him to quit and come work for him . the bartender did and made a million or so bucks the first year.

i go through some of this kind of struggling-for-balance criticism myself with plots, and i have to keep reminding myself that of all the people in the world, most of them aren't me - and they don't do things the way i would do them. usually won't smooth over plot anomalies, but often it can and does.

just sayin...

Ethan Cooper said...

This is not even the most ridiculous class that an Allen protagonist has taken in a recent film. Remember when Vicky, allegedly doing GRADUATE-LEVEL RESEARCH in Barcelona, had to take a beginning Spanish class just so she could order at restaurants? Of course, this brings up the point that they don't speak Spanish in Barcelona, but Catalan. Woody Allen shot an entire movie there and didn't realize this. So, it's not just technological advances that Allen has trouble being hip to.

Margaret Benbow said...

In BLUE JASMINE, I thought Allen did this on purpose. He was trying to show that Jasmine was a disturbed woman who made nonsensical choices. So criticisms that she wasn't savvy and spot-on in her method of pursuing the online course miss the point. Jasmine WOULDN'T be savvy and spot-on.

Greg F. said...

But her sister wasn't in the same boat and it was her sister who recommended the course. Also, how is possible there's a dentist office or any business that isn't computerized? I know there can be defenses of this and as a true fan of Woody, I appreciate them, but I honestly think this comes from Woody being completely out of touch with how the world works technologically now.

Jack Spencer said...

Hey now, give Woody a little credit. He knows full well how absurd that plan was to take the classroom course in computers just to go online and take an interior design class. It was meant to show how daft and clueless Jasmine was. That was the joke!