My Blueberry Nights
Directed by Wong Kar-wai. Starring Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Chan Marshall, Frankie Faison. (2008, PG-13, 90 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., April 25, 2008
"The stories have all been told before," Norah Jones – the singer – croons in the opening and closing of Wong's English-language debut. Indeed, the stories told within – of heartbreak and addiction and addiction to heartbreak – uniformly have an also-ran feel to them, something I never would have accused the Hong Kong filmmaker of before. From the mind of the man who brought us fembots of the future (2046) and a lovelorn imp who breaks into her secret love's apartment to restock the fish tank and rearrange the stuffed animals (Chungking Express), we get … the puppy-faced mope of Jones? That's Norah Jones the actress, a first-timer, who is entirely pleasant, and pleasant to look at in her retro heels, but is frankly a terrible choice to play Elizabeth, a woman undone by a straying boyfriend. She spends her nights at the diner of Jeremy (Law), who serves her the titular pie as a tentative overture to love. Still heartsick, Elizabeth disappears overnight and resurfaces as a waitress in Memphis, calling herself Lizzie; later she shows up in a Nevada casino as Beth the barmaid. You couldn't ask for more head-thumpingly obvious shorthand for one woman's identity crisis, and the script (by Wong and mystery writer Lawrence Block) leans almost entirely on the obvious: embarrassingly open sentiment and country-song clichés (of her no-good husband, Weisz – uncharacteristically pitchy – mews, "We tried drinking our way back into love"). It all looks gorgeous, but here, too, we're in familiar territory, the Wong romantic lexicon of slo-mo and time-lapse, red-light-district gels and iconic songs on endless replay, not to mention a high-fashion fetish. (That closeup of a Louis Vuitton bag nestled inexplicably on the arm of working-class Elizabeth, followed by a shout-out in the end credits? Give me a break.) My Blueberry Nights can be sexy as hell, but for the first time in a Wong film, I felt duped for being so easily seduced. There are momentary pleasures, to be sure – a corker of a kiss here, an Otis Redding-backed barroom slink there – but frankly, I'm a little weary of Wong wearing "that same old shaggy dress."