My Blueberry Nights

"Very Good"

My Blueberry Nights Review


It's always a tightrope when foreign filmmakers, particularly those from the Hong Kong market, come to American shores to ply their trade. Though it doesn't appear that Wong Kar Wai is going to be setting up shop permanently in Hollywood (nobody's going to be after him to direct the next Die Hard installment), My Blueberry Nights marks his first English-language film, with an entirely American and British cast. It shows that the director is not just a foreign-language specialty, his gifts are quite apparent even when the veil of mystery is lifted for English-speaking audiences once the subtitles are gone. However, My Blueberry Nights also shows that for all Wong's rightly vaunted abilities and passionate sense of cinema, there are some glaringly obvious rough patches in his approach, brought into sharp relief by transplanting the action from the teeming streets of Hong Kong to the wide open spaces of America, where his instincts for actors seem less sure.

An odd road movie of sorts that spends most of its time hanging around in diners, bars, and casinos (and precious little of it on the road), My Blueberry Nights will be noted in many quarters for it being the feature film-acting debut of jazz chanteuse Norah Jones. To put it briefly: No actress is she. Playing a lovelorn young woman named Elizabeth, she first shows up in a Brooklyn diner run by Jeremy, a charming Manchester immigrant played with the expected lighthearted dash by Jude Law. In the middle of a breakup, Elizabeth moons about the café, eating the excellent pie (best in the city!) and chatting with Jeremy, winning his heart even as hers is breaking over somebody else. Then Elizabeth ups and skips out, landing next in Memphis, where she waitresses at a café and a bar, telling everyone she's working two jobs to save up for a car.

Although the first segment is supposed to be this episodic tale's romantic backbone, it stands in weak relief against the Memphis-set scenes. There, Elizabeth meets a sad drunk named Arnie, played with masterful ease by David Strathairn, who seems able to wring more pathos out of a glance than Law can in three pages worth of dialogue. The stormy cause of Arnie's trauma, his ex-wife, comes whipping into the bar in the form of Rachel Weisz, performing here on utter screaming overdrive and ratcheting what had been a moody jazz number up into a raucous electric blues howler. Later, Elizabeth washes up in the Nevada desert at a down-at-the-heels casino where she falls in with a bleach-blonde cardsharp played by Natalie Portman with all the jagged edges of a young Sharon Stone. Meanwhile, Elizabeth sends cryptic postcards back to Jeremy, pining handsomely behind his diner counter.

The whole affair can appear terribly artificial, of course, what with all those iconic bar and diner scenes, the wind-whipped desert of Nevada sequence, and the soundtrack of Ry Cooder, Motown, and jazz standards by Jones herself. Wong keeps himself from falling down the same trap of freeze-dried Americana that some foreign directors like Wim Wenders always seem to do, and he's able to do that by hewing to the same kind of potent heartbreak that nailed down overstylized romances like In the Mood for Love and 2046. True, the look of My Blueberry Nights suffers somewhat from not having Wong's usual cinematographer Christopher Doyle on deck, but Darius Khondji does admirable work nonetheless (those close-ups of ice-cream melting in rivulets into pie). Wong's decision to film on location across the country pays off also; although he could have easily reconstructed most of the film's sets on a Toronto backlot, there is a certain grit of authenticity visible behind these admittedly melodramatic stories (scripted with a pulp writer's punch and occasional laziness by mystery author Lawrence Block).

What doesn't work in any way, really, is Jones herself. Given the dialogue's sometimes over-obvious nature, Jones's blank expression and dull line readings bring little to the party; she is only occasionally juiced into more expressive performance when the actor playing opposite (particularly Strathairn and Portman) is working in overdrive. It's a nearly soulless bit of acting, and frustrating because of how it hampers the film from ever really taking flight. As a first English-language film, My Blueberry Nights is mostly a success, though set apart from Wong's previous work in that it won't have people coming back over and over again. The film does, however, whet one's appetite for what might come next.

It's the rhubarb days that get you down.



My Blueberry Nights

Facts and Figures

Run time: 95 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 28th November 2007

Box Office USA: $0.7M

Box Office Worldwide: $21.8M

Budget: $10M

Distributed by: The Weinstein Company

Production compaines: Lou Yi Inc.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Fresh: 58 Rotten: 66

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , Jacky Pang, Yee Wah, Chan Ye Cheng

Starring: as Elizabeth, as Jeremy, as Arnie, as Sue Lynne, as Katya, as Leslie, as Travis

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The BFG Movie Review

The BFG Movie Review

For his adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic, Steven Spielberg reunited with screenwriter Melissa Mathison,...

Finding Dory Movie Review

Finding Dory Movie Review

It's been 13 years since the release of the Disney/Pixar hit Finding Nemo, and filmmaker...

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

This is where the Star Trek franchise officially shifts from thoughtful drama into thunderous action....

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

Ice Age: Collision Course Movie Review

With its fifth feature-length adventure, this franchise continues its preposterous journey at full tilt. As...

Keanu Movie Review

Keanu Movie Review

An entertaining hybrid of satirical comedy and action thriller, this madcap adventure swerves wildly between...

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Ghostbusters Movie Review

It's been more than 30 years since the Ghostbusters first hit the big screen with...

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

Now You See Me 2 Movie Review

While the original 2013 magical caper was a big hit, it's style-over-substance approach didn't exactly...

Advertisement
The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review

It's been nearly 30 years since the last live-action Tarzan movie, and yet it still...

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

Maggie's Plan Movie Review

A New York comedy with vivid characters and a contrived plot, this feels rather a...

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie Movie Review

Nearly 25 years after the sitcom debuted, Edina and Patsy arrive on the big screen...

Central Intelligence Movie Review

Central Intelligence Movie Review

After teaming up with Will Ferrell for Get Hard and Ice Cube for two Ride...

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

The Colony [Colonia] Movie Review

Based on a true story, this Chilean drama has a chilling edge to it that's...

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Independence Day: Resurgence Movie Review

Two decades is a long time to wait for a sequel, especially one starring much...

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

Elvis & Nixon Movie Review

This movie is based on a real meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon in...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.