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|My Blueberry Nights|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Wong Kar Wai|
scr Wong Kar Wai, Lawrence Block
with Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz , Christy Hamilton, Benjamin Kanes, Nate Bynum, Geoff Falk, Miller Pipkin, Trent Dee, Naseera Lewis
releaseUK 22.Feb.08, US 4.Apr.08
07/US Studio Canal 1h35
Partners in crime: Jones and Portman
Wong Kar Wai's American debut is as gorgeously filmed as you'd expect, but it's also surprisingly mopey and downbeat for a story about love. And the performances are rather uneven.
Elizabeth (Jones) is a young New Yorker who discovers her boyfriend is seeing someone else. She pours out her story to cafe owner Jeremy (Law) one night over a slice or two of blueberry pie, then takes off on a cross-country odyssey. In Memphis, she meets an alcoholic cop (Strathairn) who can't accept the fact that his sultry wife (Weisz) has left him. And in Nevada, she meets a compulsive gambler (Portman) who always thinks she'll have another chance to win big. Elizabeth keeps in touch with Jeremy through postcards, but he has no way to contact her.
As expected, director-cowriter Wong develops a strikingly moody tone, working with gifted cinematographer Darius Khondji, who intriguingly films many scenes through various kinds of glass and brings a remarkably fresh eye to expansive landscapes and vivid city streets. And the storyline is packed with thoughtful touches, quirky details and literary devices that let us into the souls of the characters, even if none of them really spring to life.
Jones is solid at the centre, progressing through the episodic narrative like an everywoman on a life-changing odyssey of self-discovery. But there's so little to the character of Elizabeth that it's difficult to care what happens, especially when she's sharing the screen with a string of shameless scene-chewers like this. Law and Weisz seem to be duelling over who can develop the most bizarre accent (Weisz wins), while Portman tries a little to hard to be, well, hard.
Yet despite the meandering pace, the film manages to hold our interest with its sheer physical beauty. This unusual approach helps us catch Elizabeth's relentless sense of expectancy. Like the characters waiting for someone to return to collect a lost set of keys in that big glass bowl, we wait to see what this offbeat film will open into. And if it's just an examination of addiction--to alcohol, gambling, pie, love--maybe that's enough.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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