My Blueberry Nights (The Weinstein Company/MGM, PG-13)

film_blueberry_sm.jpgMy Blueberry Nights tells the story of Elizabeth, who travels across America in order to get over her ex, find herself, and maybe fall in love with Jude Law along the way.

 

 

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Wong Kar-wai is one of my favorite filmmakers ever, and his 1994 Hong Kong film Chungking Express is my favorite film of his. So, if you were to tell me that Wong was going to make his first English-language film, a film which bears many similarities to (but is not an outright make of) Chungking Express, I’d be pretty excited.

But in real life, there is the whole diminishing returns thing. There are a lot of funny little similarities between Chungking Express and wkw’s new film, My Blueberry Nights; off the top of my head, there’s the leaving of keys with a worker at an eatery to return to an ex, the repeated use of a single pop song (in Chungking it was The Mamas and the Papas’ "California Dreamin’"; in My Blueberry Nights it’s Cat Power’s "The Greatest"), the casting of a pop star not known for acting (in Chungking it was Faye Wong, here it is both Norah Jones and Cat Power), eating too much of a fruit product before it expires as a symbol for the state of one’s life (previously canned pineapple, now blueberry pie), the severely fragmented storytelling, etc. One thing that didn’t carry over, though, is how good it is.

My Blueberry Nights tells the story of Elizabeth (Jones), who travels across America in order to get over her ex, find herself, and maybe fall in love with Jude Law along the way. The story begins in New York, where Norah and her now-ex live, and where Jeremy (Law) runs a small diner. Elizabeth eventually ditches New York in favor of Memphis, where she works days in a diner and nights in a bar, goes by "Lizzie" instead of "Elizabeth," and has various run-ins with the alcoholic cop Arnie (David Strathairn) and his estranged wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz). Once Memphis plays itself out, our hero heads to Nevada and gets a job in a casino, only to meet Leslie (Natalie Portman), a gambler with a nice car who likes road trips about as much as Elizabeth (now "Beth") does.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with My Blueberry Nights, and ultimately, I quite enjoyed it, but it is definitely lesser Wong Kar-wai. It looks as great as ever, and Jones, while not so great with dialogue, has a really interesting screen presence. Cat Power’s one scene in the movie is far and away the best; it makes one wonder if she could have carried the film a little better had she and Jones switched roles (although the nature of the characters would have had to change, too, as they play vastly different types). Portman is good as always, as is Strathairn, but Weisz overacts and is annoying, as usual. Ultimately, what this means is that once this film comes out on DVD, it’ll be my go-to movie when I’m in the mood to watch a Wong Kar-wai film (as I often am) but am too tired and cross-eyed to read subtitles for an hour and a half. Aside from that, there’s not really a good reason to watch it when Wong has made so many similar, better films. | Pete Timmermann

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