Top critical review
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on October 31, 2015
Woody Allen has made some great films. This is not one of them. It is exasperating that so many do not seem to notice the precipitous decline in Allen's writing ability over the last few decades. Where he once crafted believable characters with depth, we now have just caricatures. Jasmine is rich, neurotic and spoiled. Her ex is a jerk. Her sister, her ex and fiancé and their acquaintances are all unsophisticated galoots. Got it? This is not the same writer of Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Hannah and Her Sisters, Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Misdemeanors (his last great film), Sweet and Lowdown, etc.
While the film is supposed to take place in San Francisco, it has little resemblance to the actual city. For one, the working class people depicted would priced out of the metropolitan area and certainly not be able to afford a 3-bedroom apartment. Also, personality-wise, there is nothing San Francisco about them. This might have been a chance for Allen to poke fun at the uber-earnest leftist or hippy-dippy culture that exists there (the way he made fun of LA and Hollywood in Annie Hall), but he doesn't. The characters would probably make more sense in New Jersey. Oh, and Jasmine spends most of her free time trying to learn how to use a computer(?) before she can take classes on line. Who under 70 does not have basic computer skills? Not surprising has Woody Allen has had no clue about the real world at this point and no one has the guts to tell him.
There are a few bright spots. The cinematography is still high-quality. We do get some brief fleeting flashes of Allen's humor - namely, the dentist initially trying to pick up on Jasmine (before this plot line takes a dark turn) . We also get the typical tired dixieland jazz soundtrack. While Allen has excellent taste in music and usually makes it work, here it seems tired and uninspired.
No one should be surprised by this. All Allen's latest movies have been terribly overrated (especially Midnight in Paris. I suppose not having to look at Allen and having his characters dumbed-down may have help the popularity of some of these films. He still has interesting ideas but appears to lack the skills or energy to carry them off. With the exception of maybe Vicky Christie Barcelona and Match Point (watchable but not great films) it is pretty sad how far Allen has fallen.
Finally, Allen has not appeared to care about casting since the breakup with Farrow. Every actor feels the need to work with the great genius in order to show that they are an artist and not just a movie star. This leads to some very annoying choices (See Owen Wilson). Here, everyone does the best they can with the material. Andrew Dice Clay is surprisingly good in a supporting role. Still his films have suffered further from the loss of the amazing Farrow and Diane Keaton, among others.
This is really nothing new and started around the time of Celebrity with the nadir being somewhere around Jade Scorpion and Hollywood Ending (both terrible). One wonders if maybe its time to hang it up. Otherwise he is just diminishing what was once a great career. It is perplexing that not even most seasoned critics seem to acknowledge this.