My Blueberry Nights is a lushly produced, soul-searching movie from the talented Wong Kar Wai, in his English-language debut.
Starring Grammy-winner Norah Jones (in her acting debut), Jude Law, Natalie Portman, and Rachel Weisz, this trekking movie is more noteworthy for its looks than its plotting (or plodding).
Jones's Elizabeth is a New York gal trying to deal with a philandering beau. Law's easy to like Jeremy runs a cafe who gets some of Elizabeth's feelings while she enjoys some of his blueberry pie.
Soon, the yarn, co-written by Kar Wai, has her reaching destinations across the U.S. while sending Jeremy postcards, though she hasn't allowed it to be a two-way thing.
An alcoholic lawman, Arnie (David Strathairn of The Spiderwick Chronicles), in Memphis, isn't happy that his looker of a wife, Sue-Lynne (Weisz of Definitely, Maybe), has dumped him.
Portman (Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium) endows the chronic gambler, Leslie, whom Elizabeth sees in Nevada, sensing the opportunity to score something significant.
On the surface, there is something off-kilter and cerebral that has a certain tantalizing quality. But, the series of vignettes don't relay that much, hardly enlivening the characters. As atmospheric a touch as the director provides to the material, especially with lenser Darius Khondji, peering sharply to accentuate many scenes, whether in the city or in more wide-open areas, one expects more.
As a typical young woman looking to better herself through self-discovery, the inexperienced Jones often acquits herself favorably. Yet, because the character isn't well-defined, Elizabeth doesn't become very viewer-friendly. Her more cinematically capable co-stars add zest to their scenes opposite Jones, but hardly in an endearing way. Weisz and Portman seem to stand out, the former for her slanted speaking, the latter for a toughness maybe similar to her more nuanced turn in Closer.
Kar Wai, who made the elegant, dreamy In the Mood for Love, seems to have gotten more melancholic, more in tune with human idiosyncracies and what drives them to do what they do. Still, for its photogenic vibrancy, My Blueberry Nights isn't as flavorful and rich as the conversations and large glass bowl make it out to be.