Slow Narrative Flavors a Bland Blueberry Nights
- Thursday, July 03, 2008
DVD Release Date: July 1, 2008
Theatrical Release Date: November 28, 2007
Rating: PG-13 (for some mind language and innuendo)
Run Time: 114 min.
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Actors: Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman
When Elizabeth (Norah Jones) strides into the café of English owner Jeremy (Jude Law) asking questions, she knows she isn’t going to like the answers. Elizabeth’s boyfriend, who lives across the street, has been cheating on her. So Elizabeth drops off his house keys with Jeremy.
She can’t help returning to the scene of the crime, however, and ends up spending quite a lot of time with Jeremy. The two chat while eating blueberry pie—the one flavor that no one ever wants, no matter how good it may be. So Elizabeth eats it, and gets to know Jeremy, who has also been unlucky in love. Eventually, Elizabeth’s desire to find herself takes over, and she takes off, landing in Memphis, Tennessee.
Elizabeth finds work in a diner during the day and at a bar at night, and soon bears witness to the drama unfolding between Arnie (David Strathairn) and his estranged wife (Rachel Weisz). Sue-Anne been cheating on her man, and Arnie is devastated. Cop by day, Arnie is a drunk by night. And his alcoholism is about to have deadly repercussions.
Elizabeth leaves once again. This time she heads out West, to Nevada, where she finds another job waiting tables. This time, it’s for a bunch of gamblers that include the feisty Natalie Portman. Here, Elizabeth gains a little wisdom before finally realizing what is most important in life (true love, just in case you’re wondering).
Chinese director Wong Kar Wai is known for his visually-lush films, including 2046, In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, Happy Together and Days of Being Wild. Here, in his first English-language driven project, he’s created a movie that looks like his others, but which is only mildly interesting. The acting is good, and makes use of the well-rounded characters (save for their Southern names). But this isn’t enough to give the film true depth. Co-written with Lawrence Block, its narrative is slow and its dialogue is clunky. “It’s not the pie’s fault that nobody wants it,” Jeremy says, as if imparting wisdom from on high.
Even though Wong is no longer working with his longtime cinematographer, Christopher Doyle, he pulls off the same look with Darius Khondji (Seven, Funny Games). Jeremy’s café is filmed from inside and out, with an array of colors in between, on the diner’s glass storefront. Memphis is highlighted by neon reds which, although a clichéd stand-in for the South, nonetheless take us right back—even if only in our collective cinematic memory.
Instead of earth tones for the West, Khondji resorts to color—green and turquoise and orange—which brings the arid desert scenes to life. He also uses slow motion and jump cuts very effectively. Overall, his work effectively produces the visuals Wong is known for, giving the film an edgy look that belies its slow-moving storyline and is definitely the big draw for viewers. His close-up blueberry pie shots (which give the film its name), however, are more repulsive than original.
Law’s acting is never inspirational, and this is no exception. Jones manages to hold the film together, but she isn’t experienced enough to make Elizabeth particularly interesting. Mildly so, but not nearly as much as Weisz’s floozy or Portman’s gambler—both of whom are positively, well, addictive. Along with Strathairn, who evokes great empathy as the cuckolded drunk, their performances really stand out.
Wong doesn’t really seem to have a message, except that Americans drink far too much and lead desperately lonely lives. Not an inaccurate observation, of course, but his answer—true love—simply isn’t enough to fill the God-shaped vacuum of anyone who has ever tried.
- Making My Blueberry Nights
- Q&A with director Wong Kar Wai
- Theatrical Trailer
- Still Galleries
- Drugs/Alcohol: Extensive smoking and drinking throughout film. Numerous scenes take place in bars, and at least one character appears to be an alcoholic. In other scenes, people are very drunk and make terrible decisions because of their intoxication (including a deadly accident).
- Language/Profanity: Some obscenities and profanities, a few strong.
- Sex/Nudity: No overt sexual scenes. Frank discussions about adultery and marital sex (“we tried to drink our way back to love but somehow, in the morning, it didn’t make sense”). Some low-cut, slinky dresses, sexy swaggers and two chaste kisses.
- Violence: Moderate. Heated arguments; an unprovoked man attacks another while drunk (he is grievously injured but not killed); a man points a gun at his estranged wife and threatens to kill her; a man is killed while driving drunk (bloody accident).
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