July 28, 2008 at 10:28 am / by zac
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Wong Kar Wai makes his American debut with this sweet and very good little picture about love, finding it, losing it, and fighting it.
Elizabeth (Norah Jones) is down on her luck, her lover is with someone else, and worse she finds this out third party from a diner owner, Jeremy (Jude Law), that over saw them at his restaurant. Elizabeth informs her lover that her keys to his place are at Jeremy’s diner and that he can pick them up whenever he wishes. Jeremy adds them to a jar of other unclaimed keys and when Elizabeth comes back to see if the keys have been picked up or not yet, the two begin to bond over the stories of the keys and unwanted blueberry pie. The two form a sweet friendship before Elizabeth decides to hit the road as she tries to find herself.
In Memphis, she is stuck working two jobs as she tries to save up to buy a car for her travels and she befriends a local cop/drunk, Arnie (David Strathairn), who spends his lunches at the diner she works and drinking the night away at the bar she closes down. Arnie is in love with his wife, Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz), unfortunately she has moved on as he empties his sorrows in the bottle.
Moving on to the third act in Nevada, Elizabeth is working at a casino, still shy of her car when she befriends Leslie (Natalie Portman) who has just busted out of a high stakes poker game. Leslie offers up a deal to Elizabeth, if she stakes her all of the savings she has, Leslie will split the winnings 33/66, if she loses, Elizabeth gets Leslie’s car.
The story is broken into 3 distinctive acts, and I summarized them here, but that is all I will share from this story. The acting is pretty solid across the board. Jude Law is charming and incredibly like able as Jeremy who slowly falls for Elizabeth. Natalie Portman is also a fireball as Leslie and plays against type of what we usually see her as in a film. You have seen people like her and you can really buy into her philosophies on life. Rachel Weisz is solid, but she could have used a bit more work on her southern draw, chills my spine thinking about it. Norah Jones does a pretty decent job most of the time as well, but pales next to the Oscar nominees and winners that surround her. The real standout is David Strathairn as Arnie, who is just a heartbreaking and real character, and one that is sadly prevalent as that guy in just about every small town I imagine.
The film itself moves along at a fine pace and never drags. We almost feel like we didn’t get as good a look into these peoples lives that we would have liked, but we are bound by Elizabeth‘s experiences and only see what she can see or was a part of; and in a way that is kind of nice. Wong Kar Wai’s style is interesting and fun to watch where he places the camera and he crafted a beautiful little film on a fairly shoestring budget, relatively.
In the end, My Blueberry Nights is a good little independent picture that is almost best viewed as three short films connected by Elizabeth‘s presences and the lessons she learns. The acting is great and the director makes a nice little splash in his first American effort. Wong Kar Wai is able to take the simple parts of life and make it compelling, and while this film isn’t the most original or groundbreaking, it is definitely one of the finer independent features in a while.
P.S. This is out to rent right now, that is how I watched it, you should too.