Background: Chinese Writer/Director Kar Wai Wong (heretofore known as Wong Kar-wai) has developed a devoted international fan base for his stylish films over the last 20 years, including the recent 2046, which I remember seeing listed by numerous critics as one of the top ten films of 2005. His first feature length English-language film, My Blueberry Nights, was selected to open the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, and is also notable as the acting debut for singer/songwriter Norah Jones - for whom the role was specifically written. Showing her the ropes are co-stars Jude Law (Breaking and Entering), Natalie Portman (The Other Boleyn Girl), David Strathairn (The Bourne Ultimatum), and Rachel Weisz (ouch - Fred Claus and P.S. I Love You).
Synopsis : In New York, Elizabeth (Jones) is seeking solace after having been just dumped by her boyfriend. She wanders into a nearby cafe and dramatically drops off the keys to her apartment, checking in every few days to see if her ex has reclaimed them on his way back to her. Instead, she strikes up a friendship with Jeremy (Law), the dreamy owner of the cafe who comforts her with blueberry pie and ice cream each night - all she can eat until she falls asleep on the counter. Before their relationship can go any further, Elizabeth takes off for parts unknown, working multiple jobs in order to buy a car and always sending postcards back to Jeremy in New York. In Memphis she works at a diner by day and a bar by night, in both places serving a local cop, Arnie (Strathairn), who's attempting to drink his way past the broken heart left by his cheating wife, Sue Lynne (Weisz). After her stint in Memphis, Elizabeth all of a sudden shows up in Nevada, where Leslie (Portman), a compulsive gambler with daddy issues, teaches her some life lessons by way of Texas Hold 'Em. Matured and gassed up with a car, Elizabeth heads back to New York, nearly a year after she first left. Has Jeremy been receiving her postcards? Is he still there? Don't look at the poster above...
+ Norah Jones. I've been a moderate fan of her music for some time, but didn't expect much here - especially not to be hypnotized by her beauty. I think she looks like my girlfriend. ;-)
+ Hearing Ryan Shaw's "We Got Love"! I called for this as part of last year's missing soundtrack. Different kind of scene than the one I mentioned, but I still a fantastic surprise.
+ David Strathairn's heart wrenching performance - as good as anything he's done, according to me.
+ Natalie Portman's role, but not until about an hour after seeing the movie. Her presence was a jolt in the film's momentum and I was initially put off, but then I realize that she played it perfectly.
+ The mix of filming styles - grainy, smooth, slow-mo, etc.
- Rachel Weisz, which I didn't think was possible. Something didn't quite click for me.
- The jarring subway cars occasionally blowing by and totally disrupting the mood.
Writing - 8
Acting - 10
Production - 9
Emotional Impact - 9
Music - 5
Significance - 4
Total: 45/50 = 90% = A-
Last Word: Not having seen any other Wong Kar-wai film, I really had no idea what to expect from My Blueberry Nights. Obviously I hadn't seen the trailer, nor did I have any idea what it was about (this is my goal with most movies). About all I did know was that it was Norah Jones' acting debut and it starred a handful of people that I usually like to watch. I say all of this because I feel my ignorance about all aspects of the film heavily influenced my impression of it - and wow, was I impressed. My Blueberry Nights is a completely refreshing, wholly artistic dream of a film; "romantic" describes every aspect of its production. Every scene is bathed in neon light and saturated with vivid color, perfectly complementing the subtle, sensual soundtrack that provides the heartbeat of the film - a film that's very much alive. The time and place of the story feel less linear than they actually are, which along with the quick editing and mixed film styles only adds to the dreamscape. Norah Jones is a captivating on-screen presence, and Wong Kar-wai is clearly some kind of prescient genius to have written the role of Elizabeth specifically for her. Unfortunately, the writing of the actual plot didn't do as much for me as the characters did. The key fishbowl was a little corny, and the sudden transition in and out of Nevada was too disjointed for me. Eventually, however, My Blueberry Nights regains its footing, and I found myself actually enjoying the saccharin-sweetened ending. My unfortunate ignorance prevents me from confronting the critics and die-hard fans who consider this Wong Kar-wai's worst film, but to anyone else I say this is evidence of a truly visionary filmmaker. If you're not tasting blueberry pie yourself by the end of this, I'm afraid you've missed something.