The Austin Chronicle

My Blueberry Nights

Rated PG-13, 90 min. Directed by Wong Kar-wai. Starring Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, Chan Marshall, Frankie Faison.

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."

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