My Blueberry Nights
Wong Kar Wai's dreamy My Blueberry Nights boasts strong performances but ultimately feels more like a wistful character study than a heartfelt romance.
When Elizabeth (Norah Jones) finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her, she doesn't know what to do. Angry and anguished, fed up and self-doubting, she finds a sympathetic ear in amiable café manager Jeremy (Jude Law), who soothes her ruffled spirits with empathy and fresh-baked blueberry pie. It's a romance waiting to happen, but Elizabeth isn't ready. First, she must find out who she really is--Elizabeth? Lizzie? Beth?--by hitting the road and experiencing life beyond New York City. Along the way, she meets people who help her realize how much possibility her life really has--people like defeated drunk Arnie (David Strathairn); his blowsy estranged wife, Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz); and irrepressible gambler Leslie (Natalie Portman). By the time she completes her journey, Elizabeth finds both self knowledge and a peace that transcends even hot pie and cold ice cream.
My Blueberry Nights has gotten a lot of attention as Jones' acting debut--the good news is that the popular singer doesn't make a fool of herself. She may not win any awards for her performance, but she does a fine job playing a wounded girlfriend; she reacts like a champ in the scenes that pit her against established talents Strathairn, Weisz, and Portman. The movie's episodic nature allows each of these co-stars to shine; Weisz has some particularly poignant moments as Sue Lynne, a woman whose identity is so wrapped up in the husband she has come to despise that she doesn't know who she is without him. Portman's Leslie has a similarly complex push-pull relationship with her unseen father; both women's experiences inform Elizabeth's journey and help her decide how to approach her tentative relationship with Jeremy--who, as played by Law, is both earthy and impossibly perfect.
Even ignoring the movie's central logic flaw--what straight woman in her right mind would risk losing a man who looks like Jude Law and feeds her pie every night?--there's something about My Blueberry Nights that keeps it from really touching the heart. Perhaps it's the fact that Elizabeth maintains a distance between her true self and everyone she meets. Or, more likely, it's the consequence of Wai's dreamy filming style, which manifests itself in slowed-down footage, mismatched audio and video, and unexpected shots of ice cream melting on fresh-baked pastry. The people that Elizabeth meets are more fully realized than she is; in the end, she doesn't seem to have changed so much as just gotten in a better mood. It may be true that the course of true love never did run smooth, but it also rarely runs quite as quirkily or languorously as it seems to here.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.