' Cinema Romantico: My Blueberry Nights

Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Blueberry Nights

"I wonder how you'll remember me - as the girl who likes blueberry pie or as the girl with the broken heart?"

Yes, that is an actual line of dialogue uttered in Wong Kar Wei's "My Blueberry Nights". The question is which word pops into your head upon reading it. Do you think - my, that's cheesy. Or do you think - my, that's melodramatic. If it's cheesy than this film is probably not for you. But if it's melodramatic than by all means stash this one away in your netflix queue because "My Blueberry Nights", as far as I'm concerned, is full of melodrama, slathered in it, drowned it like....nope, I'm not gonna' do it. I was set to make a dessert-themed metaphor, something along the lines of "My Blueberry Nights" is slathered in melodrama the same as a sliver of blueberry pie awash in an aquaduct of whipped cream. But no, I won't stoop that low.

Pop-songstress Norah Jones makes her acting debut as Elizabeth, a woman who enters the world of Jude Law's Jeremy that is his New York City cafe to ask if he's seen her boyfriend with another woman. Apparently, he has. She gives him a set of keys and advises if her boyfriend returns to stuff them into his lying, cheating hands. It seems Jeremy has an entire jar set aside of keys people have left with a certain set of instructions, including - oh yes - a set of his own that allows for a story of his own lost love.

He definitely seems to be falling for her as they bond each night over blueberry pie, and perhaps she for him, but instead she heads out of town and winds up in Memphis as a waitress by day and a waitress by night. One of her customers at the bluesy bar she tends in the evenings is a severely depressed alcoholic with a good heart (David Straithairn) with a severely unfaithful wife (Rachel Weisz) and it seems they both have severe self-destructive tendencies and, of course, this will all come to a head on Elizabeth's watch.

Once that's all done Elizabeth heads further west and finds herself waitressing in an Arizona casino where a short-haired, twangy, sassy poker player (Natalie Portman) who also happens to possess a bitchin' car and a damaged relationship with her father offers Elizabeth one of those life-changing opportunities.

And Jeremy wiles away back in NYC, receiving postcards from Elizabeth, unsuccessfully trying to track her down via phone, and wondering if she'll ever return.

There isn't a lot of real depth to anyone's problems here, it's all just a big bunch of swooping, theatrical drama with sumptuous visuals, aside from the abudance of insipid slow-motion shots. I'm also afraid to report that Ms. Jones isn't much of an actress but the others, as we already know, are and they go for broke. Weisz's monologue when the camera finally stays still and lingers on her in closeup for several minutes is breathtaking and watching Jude Law here made me wish he'd do more roles like this one. He seems vibrant, alive, not just relegated to being one of People's 50 Most Beautiful People.

I like melodrama and sometimes wish our current cinematic landscape found more time for it and so I enjoyed the film quite a bit, though it probably would have been even more enjoyable if it had been made in the 50's when they really knew how to do melodrama. In fact, if I had a time machine I would go back to the 50's and rewrite this movie as an Elvis vehicle with Mr. Presley in the Norah Jones role and then switch all the key females to males and vice versa. Well, except for the Natalie Portman role since that one's got Ann Margaret written all over it.

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