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My Blueberry Nights (A Movie Review)

Updated: Nov 8, 2022


Starring Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz, Frankie Faison, Hector A. Leguillow, Chan Marshall, Chad Davis, Katya Blumenberg and Adriane Lenox.

Screenplay by Wong Kar Wai and Lawrence Block.

Directed by Wong Kar Wai.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 113 minutes. Rated PG-13.

It's so rare that you find intriguing, atmospheric, original arty films that you want to give one the benefit of the doubt even if it does not quite live up to its promise.

The English language debut of Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai (Chunking Express, In the Mood for Love, 2046) is one of those cases. Visually it is moody, distinctive, beautiful and intriguing. A look at love lost and sought in the neon lit bars, casinos and diners of several cities.

A quick glance at the poster of My Blueberry Nights would mislead you to think it is a Hollywood film starring Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman, however that is not the case. Although the two of them do fine supporting roles - as well as Jude Law and David Strathairn - the film rests on the shoulders of an acting novice. An acting novice who just happens to have sold about thirty million records. An acting novice named Norah Jones.

Jones has suggested in some interviews that this will probably be her last acting role, which would be a real shame. She has a quiet, graceful power as an actress and is a subtle grounding force for the film when some of the pros get a little overly dramatic.

Jones isn't the only offbeat singer turning in an intriguing performance, Law's ex-girlfriend is played in a nicely subtle cameo by Chan Marshall, who is better known by her musical nom de plume, Cat Power.

Jones plays Elizabeth, a woman who finds her boyfriend has been sneaking around behind her back. She decides to hit the road, searching for herself but mostly supplying epiphanies for others who she meets on the trip from New York to Vegas and back. To show how much she is a product of her environment, in the three major sections of the film, the characters around her refer to her by different variations of her name - Elizabeth, Lizzy and Beth. It is almost like Elizabeth is a blank screen for other people to project upon.

She starts in New York, still mourning her break-up. She spends every night at a cafe, talking with a friendly but similarly heartbroken waiter (played by Law.) The title is a reference to a conversation that Jeremy and Elizabeth have in which he explains to her that most of the pies at his restaurant are gone by the end of the day, but no one ever buys blueberry, and she promptly starts ordering that pie every night.

Then she drives down south and becomes a cocktail waitress in a local dive bar, where she meets a distraught alcoholic cop (Strathairn) and his angry estranged wife (Weisz). Again she gets to witness a devastating breakup, which she comes to realize was much more complex than she originally assumed.

After that situation explodes Elizabeth moves on to a dinky Nevada casino, where she meets a female gambler (Portman) who seems to have hit a bad streak and has a contentious relationship in her life as well, though this one is not romantic.

Visually and atmospherically, My Blueberry Nights is stunning. Unfortunately, the storylines are not always quite up to snuff. Too much of it seems a little obvious and overwrought. Still, despite its flaws, My Blueberry Nights is an intriguing look at love and loneliness.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2008 All rights reserved. Posted: May 30, 2008.

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