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“My Blueberry Nights,” Kar Wai Wong newest movie, arrives on DVD Tuesday.

"My Blueberry Nights" (2008) - After she discovers her boyfriend is having an affair, a young woman explores the American landscape.

“My Blueberry Nights” premiered at Cannes in 2007 as a nominee of the prestigious Palme d’Or award. In competition with films like “Persepolis,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “Zodiac,” the movie lost to “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days.” Amidst all these wonderful films, Wong’s new work managed to get mixed reviews. I don’t know how it managed to get positive quotes from critics.

Many of Wong’s films have been praised by critics, especially “Chungking Express,” but I’ve only managed to watch “In the Mood for Love,” and an artist who is capable of making a movie as patient and beautiful as “In the Mood for Love” has no excuse for making a movie as lazy–and, dare I say, pointless?–as “My Blueberry Nights.”

Elizabeth (Norah Jones) is gullible and naive. She leaves her cheating boyfriend and retreats into a local New York cafe run by the handsome and charming Jeremy (Jude Law). They talk, they eat pie, and they make off-the-cuff chatter sound like foreshadowing dialogue.

Later, she takes back her boyfriend, finds out he’s cheating again, and leaves the city for Memphis in order to start fresh. At this point, Wong seems to be interested in making a pastiche of the American landscape, but he populates the story with stereotypes. Arnie (David Strathairn) is the self-destructive town drunk who is capable of so much more. He’s obsessed with his separated wife, Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz), and he thinks they are still married. Sue Lynne has an accent, sports a bob, and goes out with different guys, perfectly fitting the stereotype of the town hussy. And when Elizabeth gets tired of this pathetic landscape, she goes to Las Vegas with Leslie (Natalie Portman), a gambling loser who can “read” people but still can’t decide whether to fold or go all in. And don’t we all know that’s so, like, metaphorical?

To top it off, like a dollop of fatty whipped cream on top an already-sugary piece of blueberry pie, Wong injects sentiment into the story at will. Of course, each segment of the movie should have meaning, but if it comes organically from the story, it works. The story, however, forces characters to say specific dialogue and perform certain actions to make the movie’s point, which Elizabeth spells out in the all-to-easy voice-over technique at the end of the film.

“My Blueberry Nights,” essentially, is all tell and no show. This main problem is captured in one wonderful image near the end of the movie: Elizabeth remembers passing by the cafe, opening the door slightly, thinking, then letting the door close. Instead of letting us infer the shot is a flashback–we see her in the cafe already, so we know it’s not an action she’s currently doing–and what it means in relation to the story, she explains it in abstract terms to Jeremy and, in effect, to us, too.

Hopefully, Wong will take a note from Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” by letting images speak for themselves instead of spelling out everything for the audience. Surely he knows this already: the silent moments of “In the Mood for Love” are what make it so beautiful, working as an emotional coloring book for the audience and letting us shade in what we see fit for the scene as Maestro Wong gives us a hint what we should be thinking about.

Rating: *1/2 out of ****

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One Comment

  1. Nice review. We’re WKW fans too.


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