Borderlands (Zev Berman, 2007): 6.5/10

The Magic Flute (Ingmar Bergman, 1975): 7/10

La Guerre Est Finie (Alain Resnais, 1966): 7/10

Speed Racer (The Wachowski Brothers, 2008): 8/10

My Photo
Location: milwaukee, wi

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar-Wai, 2007)

Like Michael Haneke, my relationship with Wong Kar-Wai is one where I really go against the grain. Most people I know who love film love his films, citing how beautiful and romantic they are. Instead of romantic, I find them melodramatic, and, at their worst, trite and boring. I've never seen a Wong film that I really, truly love, and My Blueberry Nights, his first English-language effort, didn't change that. The film starts with about a half hour of the main character, Elizabeth (Norah Jones, in her first acting role which I'll get to soon) complaining to cafe owner Jeremy (Jude Law, who looks sort of dead behind the eyes) about the unseen man that's left her for another woman. She stays at his cafe past closing to talk with him and eat blueberry pie, since Jeremy explains that it's always almost all left at the end of the night, but he keeps making them anyway because someday, someone will want some. These overwrought metaphors (get it? Elizabeth's the blueberry pie!) might sound romantic and lovely in Chinese through subtitles, but when we actually hear this dialogue in English coming from these actors, it just doesn't work. Another Wong trademark, slow motion, is used to complete excess here and seems to be just padding when there's nothing else to show; it's distracting rather than masterful.

Every review I've read of the film pretty much hinges on the performance of Norah Jones -- people either commend her bravery for taking her first acting role as the lead in a prominent director's first English feature, or dismiss her outright with little acting and emoting talent. I'm in the second camp. Half the time, Jones seems checked out of the role, as if reading from a cue card or having her lines read to her. Especially when put up against such grade-A talents as David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz, Jones is almost wince-worthy at times. The entire movie is based on the premise that Elizabeth (who goes by Beth and Liz at times in her journey) is someone to whom you can really connect; why else would Straithairn's alcoholic police officer or Natalie Portman's obsessive gambler open up to her like they do? I saw nothing in Jones' portrayal of Elizabeth that made this at all plausible. Her innocence and wide-eyed naivete could have been endearing, but instead were ridiculous and unrealistic. Elizabeth is someone who believes used car salesmen. Seriously.

But for all these faults, the film is saved from total disaster from the middle section, with Straithairn as the cop and Weisz as his soon-to-be ex-wife. This story is told masterfully, and is telling that the movie is at its best when not about Elizabeth. The small tragedies are often the most painful ones, and these people, while they pretend they're not damaged, are vulnerable and broken. Both Straithairn and Weisz give fantastic performances, and might even be Oscar-worthy come next awards season. All in all, it's not surprising that My Blueberry Nights got such polarized reactions when it premiered at Cannes, nor that it's taken so long to get it out since. The script is wooden and the performances are, for the most part, vacant. I think the biggest problem here is that My Blueberry Nights tries so hard to convince you of its heart, when there's none to be seen.


Labels: ,

StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble It!

Comments on "My Blueberry Nights (Wong Kar-Wai, 2007)"


post a comment