My Blueberry Nights
Directed by Wong Kar Wai
Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman
Release date: April 4, 2008
Breakups are hard to handle. Some of us throw tantrums, some of us cry for days and days until we can’t stop, some of us jump into dating anyone that crosses our path, and some of us run to deal with the hurt. In the movie My Blueberry Nights, Elizabeth (Norah Jones) runs to stop the pain of a broken heart.
Opening the movie we meet Elizabeth entering an all-night dinner and harassing the waiter Jeremy (Jude Law) about a customer. We quickly find out that Elizabeth was cheated on and the relationship she had is now in ruins. If she broke up with him, or he broke up with her is not clearly seen as she leaves a message that she has found out about his infidelity and leaves keys to his apartment in Jeremy’s diner. However, he never comes to pick them up and Elizabeth checks daily to see if he has been there. Thus setting the basis for the friendship she and Jeremy share. Elizabeth needs someone to talk and in her conversations we learn that Jeremy is just as heartbroken as she is. Elizabeth decides that to get over her pain she needs to leave New York and go wherever the wind takes her.
The first stop on Elizabeth’s train to nowhere is Memphis, Tennessee. Here she works two waitress jobs, one in a diner and the other in a bar, to keep busy and to help her cope with her problem sleeping. She meets Arnie (David Strathairn) and Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz). Arnie is an alcoholic who drowns his hurt every night in bourbon and scotch and promises he will become sober the next day because his wife Sue Lynne has left him. Sue Lynne is younger than Arnie and wants him to give her space to breath and not love her as much as he does. Two tragic events occur which lead Arnie and Sue Lynne to accept and forgive. Arnie accepts that Sue Lynne will never be in his life anymore and Sue Lynne forgives the love that Arnie has for her. Elizabeth’s witnessing their tragic catharsis leads her to recognize pain comes in all different levels and happens to all types of people.
The second stop is to Las Vegas, Nevada. Elizabeth picks up another waitress job and this time it’s in a small casino. She meets Leslie (Natalie Portman) who has just lost a huge hand at the poker table. Leslie quickly sizes up Elizabeth and sees that she is trusting and naïve so she cons Elizabeth into loaning her the money she has saved up for her car by using her new Jaguar as collateral. Leslie and Elizabeth’s trip is the girl’s night out that Elizabeth needed. They wear silly hats, and talk about life and a bit about men. When Leslie receives a phone call from a hospital stating her father is passing away and she should come and see him, the budding friendship between Elizabeth and Leslie is met with grief. From Leslie, Elizabeth learns that people should show their affection because you’ll never know when they are no longer there to receive it.
The last stop of Elizabeth’s trip is back where she started — back to New York City and back to Jeremy. I won’t spoil the end of the movie by telling you if she winds up with Jeremy or if they only share a dessert (she a slice of blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream and he half of lemon meringue pie) and conversation. But, I will say this: when Elizabeth returns she is met with a reserved seat at the counter.
My thoughts about this movie are a bit complicated. I respect Norah Jones for attempting this role. However, her newness to acting is very apparent. She plays the unassuming and sweet character wonderfully, but she appears flat in some scenes. I really wanted to love her in this movie because I love her music. But, it just didn’t happen. When we first meet her on the big screen she appeared a bit unsure, not ‘in character’ unsure, but as Norah Jones unsure. It made me feel that she had to work that much harder to regain my trust for the rest of the movie. When an actor makes you see themselves and not their roles something is lacking. I would say in this instance it was experience that Norah needed more of.
Jude Law and Rachel Weisz gave respectable portrayals. I like Jeremy’s character, but I could not help but think that this sexy man would not be as hopeful as he was about people and love, living in New York City after being dumped. He’s gorgeous, there is no way we New York women would have let him hole himself up in his diner to lick his wounds. We would have been there hitting on him ruthlessly and then finally breaking him down and rebuilding him. So maybe he was just too cute for the part. Rachel Weisz presented the turmoil of Sue Lynne affectively. She sashayed into the bar with her boyfriend in front of her ex-husband with just enough laissez faire to make you believe that was the prize in her relationship. But, it is the tragedy which ensues between she and Arnie that Weisz shines in portraying.
My favorites were David Strathairn and Natalie Portman. David Strathairn has yet to play a role I did not like. I don’t think it’s because all of his movies were awesome (which most were: The Spiderwick Chronicles, Bourne Ultimatum, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Missing in America), but because he is one of those actors which make you believe the role he is playing. I believed that Strathairn was a love-broken alcoholic. My heart went out to him and I wanted to give him help. When an actor makes you want to help, they are doing their job and killing that role (killing in the positive way.) Natalie Portman played Leslie the selfish card shark well. Call me a true geek, but I expected Queen Amidala to walk onto the screen, not a blonde pixie-haired Natalie Portman. Ok, I didn’t mean to make everything about Star Wars, but I’m sure you all publicly, or secretly, love those movies. Portman made me believe her role, too. Her strained relationship with her father and her dealing with his passing were moving. She was detached enough to display the issues in their relationship, but sincere enough to show the audience that she really loved him while was acting like she had a hard heart.
Overall the movie was a bit boring. I could not help but feel like “when is this going to be over” even though the movie is only 90 minutes long. When I left the screening room I heard a few people extolling the camera angles and the brilliance of director Wong Kar Wai, Nights being his first English-language film. Now, I will agree that there were some great angles like the kiss between Jones and Law, the melting ice cream on the blueberry pie, and the diner scene when we can see action, just barely, on the television playing the video camera feed. But, I personally did not think they were groundbreaking, I take that back, I have never seen a kiss done on screen like Jones’s and Law’s, so that was impressive. The transitions in the movie were done well when moving from New York City to Memphis to Las Vegas. It felt like Elizabeth exhausted the area and was ready to move on. The dialogue did not lend it self to drawn-out goodbyes and Wong Kar Wai did an excellent job of alerting you that Elizabeth was on the move again.
The version of the film being released in theaters is a different cut from the one screened at Cannes last year. I kept wondering how much the cuts differed and if perhaps the Cannes versions wasn’t superior. It would be interesting to find out, as maybe I would refer this movie more highly if the Cannes cut was better.