Shown last year at the Cannes and several other Film Festivals before coming here for a general but limited release, My Blueberry Nights is director Wong Kar Wai’s first English language film. Since his legendary Chungking Express (1994), Wong’s films have attracted a cult following. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his previous titles like In the Mood for Love (2000) and its sequel 2046 (2004). Let me just describe his style as “Film Noir in Postmodern Colors”. Wong’s films are atmospheric, flashy, up-close and penetrating. His characteristic use of mirrors and small, enclosed settings juxtaposes the reflective and the surreal. Many find him incomprehensible, frustrated at his sometimes self-absorbed artistry.
Wong’s signature directorial style found some new players here in My Blueberry Nights. In this debut film of popular jazz diva Norah Jones, Wong cast her against some very impressive acting talents including Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, and Natalie Portman. Visually, MBN is a colorful cinematic kaleidoscope. Unfortunately, it remains merely so, for underneath the visual plane, there is not much substance in the script to gratify. It is almost painful to see acting talents uttering cliches and simplistic dialogues, and to even overact to compensate.
Jones is Elizabeth, newly dumped by her boyfriend and finding a confidant in cafe owner Jeremy, played by Jude Law. To escape from the pain of lost love, she leaves on a road trip on her own across America. Working as a waitress along the way, she meets characters who are in worse shape than she is: A police officer (David Strathairn) despair in love, his estranged wife (Rachel Weisz), and a weathered gambler who befriends her and teaches her a life lesson: never trust anyone. This role is played by Natalie Portman…ok, there might be a miscast here, but Portman has delivered some captivating performance. While this is Jones’ first time acting, her unseasoned and naive persona ironically is quite appropriate as the young and impressionable Elizabeth.
All the acting and singing talents however are not sufficient to rescue a deficient script. If you’re not a devoted fan of Wong Kar Wai, or any of the actors and singer here in this film, you might just like to manage your time better. I’ve admired some of Wong’s previous works, but am disappointed at this first piece in a new page of his career. Having said that, I look forward to his future endeavors.
~ ~ Ripples
9 thoughts on “My Blueberry Nights (2007)”
Nice review. However, we loved this film and we’re rabid WKW fans too.
Yes, the writing has to be there, doesn’t it?! Makes me feel good about my profession. 🙂 (i.e. English Prof)
1minutefilmreview: I’m afraid MBN is not the film to lure new WKW fans. I think the basic problem here is language. While WKW may be a talented director, he may need to leave the English scriptwriting to others… I’ve often admired those who can write a book or movie review succinctly. I’ll stop by your blog when I’ve a minute. Thanks for coming by and if you’ve got time, feel free to explore more here.
writinggb: One of the people who has influenced me most is my high school English teacher… he’s a movie critic now. I have high regards for those who teach literature. You may be training up some of our future screenwriters.
I had heard that Nora Jones was venturing into film. And wouldn’t you know it, here it is in your blog. It’s good to know.
onlyanovel: It’s interesting to see artists branching out and exploring new territories. Scarlett Johansson recently has a debut CD out. I’m afraid their attempts may not be as well received as they wish to see.
Did you intentionally leave out the messy original score selections as well? Well…let’s just say that Ry Cooder’s rendition of Yumeji’s Theme (featured in “In the Mood for Love”, written by Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi) is a dragging blues for the lonesome type of tone…Perhaps it’s just right for Elizabeth’s moods for the most part in this film. I’d say WKW is going to enter a new phase of his works, and that, I am not sure I know what it is, or will be. But one thing I know is that WKW will probably try different things before growing into something of his own direction in the future.
Foodiewil: Thanks for the tidbits and your take on the music of MBN. I was so troubled by the acting and dialogues that I felt the music almost redeeming. I’d probably rate the MBN CD higher than the movie.