‘My Blueberry Nights’ movie review: Wong Kar-wai’s affecting little trifle

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An inoffensive, sometimes affecting little trifle, director Kar Wai Wong’s first English-language feature My Blueberry Nights does well enough on its own accord, though it pales in comparison to the director’s previous films. 

Singer Norah Jones (in her acting debut) stars as young lost soul Elizabeth, who befriends NYC café owner Jeremy (Jude Law) after she splits up with her boyfriend. 

The two share an intimate moment, but Elizabeth, broken hearted, heads off on a journey across the US that will last the rest of the film, meeting the usual assortment of colorful characters along the way. 

She takes two jobs in Memphis, befriending an estranged husband (David Strathairn) and wife (Rachel Weisz) who both need comforting while saving up money to buy a car; she then heads to Nevada, and meets a compulsive gambler (Natalie Portman) who offers to double her savings – or give her a car – if Elizabeth will lend her the money for one last hand of cards.

The film is, to be charitable, ‘leisurely paced’; the fact of the matter is that there’s no driving force here, our lead character has no discernable goals, and thus there’s no compelling reason for us to be watching (unless you’re just waiting for the conclusion, which you should be able to decipher ten minutes into the movie). 

But I can’t really complain when the film looks so good: this cinematography here is (almost) as good as the director’s previous films (2046, In the Mood for Love), and includes the kind of artsy, noirish ‘rain soaked streets, neon signs reflected in windows’ shots of New York City that I haven’t seen in ages. It’s really quite beautiful to look at; slogging through the film, which is 90 minutes but feels considerably longer, is another matter.

Jones is good but I wish she had switched roles with Portman, who shows the kind of spunk and enthusiasm in her limited screen time that the film desperately needs; rest of the cast is fine, but this isn’t the kind of actor’s film the dialogue-heavy script may lead you to believe. 

While Wong can be commended for not becoming a studio casualty and sticking to his roots in his first English-language movie, I hope he’ll choose a weightier project next time out.

My Blueberry Nights

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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