My Blueberry Nights

My Blueberry Nights


Reviewed by: Emma Slawinski

With an accomplished filmography behind him, Wong Kar Wai takes on the Big Country with the signature colour-saturated, lingering nostalgia that has served him so well in his Hong-Kong pictures.

After her boyfriend does a disappearing act, Elizabeth (Norah Jones in her screen debut) takes to killing time in a New York cafe, talking about love and its failure with the chirpy Mancunian who runs the joint, and drowning her sorrows in blueberry pie. Unsure of herself and seeking some answers, or at any rate some solace, she heads out across the southern States, working as a waitress in diners and bars. Anyone who’s ever made a living that way will know that there’s no better place for people-watching and picking up stories and characters. Elizabeth can’t help but become involved in the lives of the folk thrown in her path, in spite of her reserve.

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Elizabeth listens and observes as an alcoholic cop with a kind face sits at the bar and spins an illusory world where every drink is his last, and his marriage is still going strong. His wife, who has left him for another man, invites havoc when she makes her entrance sashaying through the bar, shooting killer looks from under black curls. Later, as Elizabeth edges further west, she watches a sassy, impish girl deliver quick-fire lines in a southern drawl across a poker game, and gets taken along for a ride she didn’t quite bargain for.

The neon, coloured formica and Fifties-style diner aprons, the sweeping panoramas, endless roads and skies, and sultry night-views of characters dawdling on street-corners are natural subjects for Wong to linger over with subtle camera-work and editing. Aesthetically this film is an absolute joy to watch. Somehow though, my satisfaction with the story didn’t match my sensory pleasure.

Jones puts in a reasonable performance as Elizabeth, but her journey to rediscover herself and love is curiously lacking in emotion. Wong does better with the supporting cast, despite having less screen-time to develop their characters. David Strathairn’s desolation as alcoholic cop Arnie is palpable, though Rachel Weisz is less convincing as his estranged wife (his trademark slow-motion shots of her working the bar only add to her unease in the role). Natalie Portman injects the screen with energy, a welcome change of pace towards the end of the film, and thankfully Jude Law manages to shake off the slickness that has characterised many of his roles, and is quite endearing as Jones’s maybe-love interest.

My Blueberry Nights is a visual feast, and transports us to a nostalgic and sensuously reconstructed America. But making an ‘American’ film was a gamble; I couldn’t help comparing it to Wong’s previous work, and found it missing the passion and depth that compelled me to watch films like In the Mood for Love and 2046 over and over again.

Reviewed on: 22 Feb 2008
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A heartbroken woman travels across America in search of love.
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Director: Wong Kar Wai

Writer: Wong Kar Wai, Lawrence Block

Starring: Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman

Year: 2007

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: Hong Kong, China, France


Glasgow 2008

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