Thursday, July 10, 2008

"My Blueberry Nights" - REVIEW

It's always an interesting experiment to observe when singers are put on the big screen to act. Usually, they can get away with having a chance to have singing worked into the role (Beyonce in Dreamgirls), but on occasion, they are only given the chance to ACT. That's the case with Norah Jones, who can only be heard singing, but not seen (several of her songs are part of the soundtrack) in "My Blueberry Nights", the first English language film from acclaimed director Wong Kar Wai. Though his Chinese-language films may be brilliant, his English is certainly a bit of a dissappointment, but it's nice enough to not be a failure. The story opens in a small diner in New York, where Elizabeth (Jones) is trying to find her unfaithful boyfriend. While there she meets head waiter Jeremy (Jude Law) whom she eventually returns to visit to talk about her recent breakup. While there, she develops a fondness for the diner's blueberry pie, which, for some odd reason, is never ordered by anyone else, while the other pies are gone by the end of the day. Eventually she decides to try to be someone new, and begins a soul searching journey across America, working as a waitress in various cities. Along the way she meets a depressed alcoholic cop (David Strathairn), his wife (Rachel Weisz), and later a gambling addict (Natalie Portman). Though Jones is somewhat stoic (though not necessarily lifeless), in a way her mild acting almost works; had she really really TRIED it would have been somewhat embarrasing to try and keep up with the acting from everyone else. Law is charming and lively, and Weisz is an interesting and unpredictable character, but it's Strathairn and Portman who truly shine. Strathairn has a way about him that makes you want to slap him, but then only moments later, you feel sorry for him and realize that he's actually a decent guy. Surprisingly good is Portman, who kills two birds with one stone here; she finally does an accent (southern) without sounding awkward and manages to get through a crying scene without sounding or looking forced. This might be one of her best performances. Though the script doesn't always allow for these good performances to reach their peaks (Law really gets the short end of the stick here), it manages to be decent enough. However, if substance isn't your thing, there's still plenty of eye candy (aside from the female cast that is). If there's one aspect of Kar Wai's talent that wasn't lost in translation, it's his eye for color; the cinematography is beautiful, mixing in soft, gently blurred streaks of color with sharp piercing flashing of neon signs. It also contains what may be the most mouth watering shot of food ever put on screen (melted vanilla ice cream running down a piece of blueberry pie). Though it may not be what Kar Wai's fans were really hoping for in his English debut, most should probably find this to be an acceptable and charming in an oddly low key sort of way. Much like Ms. Jones' music, there aren't necessarily choruses of power notes, but rather a sense of soothing that gently melts over anyone listening, much like ice cream over a piece of pie.

Grade: B-/B

Nominations: Best Director - Wong Kar Wai(#5), Best Supporting Actor - David Strathairn(#4), Best Supporting Actress - Natalie Portman(#4), Best Cinematography(#3)

Number of 2008 films seen: 19


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1minutefilmreview said...

Nice review. We're WKW fans too.