My Blueberry Nights
(Wong Kar-Wai, 2007)
Norah Jones is sad. Jude Law is intrigued. David Strathairn is drunk. Rachel Weisz is distraught. Natalie Portman is sneaky.
That’s about it. Although there are some spoilers after the jump.
In this movie, Wong Kar-Wai’s first English-language feature, the story is crippled not only by a leaden ear for dialogue, but no true thematic arc. It’s a road movie littered with unique characters that aren’t terribly memorable or engaging. Norah Jones leaves behind New York for a year to reinvent herself, and in the process, leaves behind Jude Law and his blueberry pies. In the end, she just can’t resist coming back to those blueberries.
Also to its detriment, the casting is suspect: Law and Portman are truly unbelievable in their respective roles as smitten restauranteur and high-stakes roller. And Jones, in her film debut, is overwhelmed in the lead. Her performance ranges from mumble-mouthed to disaffected.
If I may play casting director for a moment: Chan Marshall (the singer also known as Cat Power) appears in a haunting and cerebral cameo, and appears to be a more obvious choice for Jones’ role. She’s certainly more likely to keep Jude Law’s interest for over a year, with no contact save some occasional cryptic notes. Dunno, maybe the movie production more closely coincided with Miss Jones’ touring and recording schedule.
That’s not to say there isn’t merit to this film. For one thing, it carries the Wong Kar-Wai Seal of Gorgeousness. It’s chock-full of stunning visuals and beautiful compositions. No one does cinema like him, so kudos to him and his cinematographer Darius Khondji. But, as a feature, the story feels thin, like a short subject at best, and for lack of a better word, foreign. Mr. ….um, Kar-Wai, or Mr. Wong…. someone help, which is it? …. requires a screenwriter more familiar with the American landscape that can match his artistry.
I’d hate to believe that simply recasting with Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung, and adding subtitles would change my opinion and make it a rousing success, but perhaps it’s true. Then again, I wouldn’t expect Francis Ford Coppola to be successful in filming a Chinese story set in Shanghai. Although Coppola’s a bad example; I’d wager to say he can’t make a good movie in English these days.