That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

My Blueberry Nights

Saturday, June 21st, 2008 8:36 pm—Film

My Blueberry Nights (Hong Kong/France 2007, Drama/Romance), Writers: Wong Kar-Wai and Lawrence Block; Director: Wong Kar-Wai

I’m writing this post while gobbling blueberries, and am a little baked after having spent the day in the sun. Maybe that’ll excuse me from any typos or inane tangents.

Also the sun is spilling dappled light over my computer screen. It’s really quite beautiful.

My Blueberry Nights has all the right ingredients to pull me in to the theatre. A dream cast (Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, and soulful, entrancing singer Norah Jones in her acting debut). It’s directed by Wong Kar-Wai, the visionary behind In the Mood for Love. And it features Jones’ dreamy, melodic music.

In the end, though, the film fails to deliver on its promise. For one thing, the plot is much more superficial than that of In the Mood for Love. My Blueberry Nights begins when Elizabeth (Jones) meets Jeremy (Law) at his diner. She is heartbroken after having caught her boyfriend cheating and, desperate for someone to talk to, turns to Jeremy. The two bond after-hours in the empty diner, talking into the night and eating the day’s leftover pies—her choice is blueberry, which remains untouched by the other diner patrons, day after day. What a wonderful way to fall in love with someone. There’s something special about being alone in a place that’s usually full of people. To share that place with someone else feels like a moment stolen from time, forged outside of the regular day-to-day rules that everyone else follows.

But although Jeremy falls right away for Elizabeth, she is buried too far beneath her sadness to recognize what they share. One night, she leaves the diner behind and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She spends time in Memphis and Nevada, where she befriends a delusional alcoholic (Strathairn), his estranged wife (Wiesz), and a pathological liar and gambler (Portman), all the while writing down her inner dialogue in postcards to Jeremy.

And here is where the film begins to unravel. As we dabble into the other characters’ lives, we lose sight of Elizabeth and her potential future with Jeremy. That’s a mistake, because Kar-Wai never creates the same sympathy and interest for his supporting characters as he does for Elizabeth. My Blueberry Nights loses steam as Elizabeth sits silent in the background for too long.

The film is full of Kar-Wai’s trademark whimsy: Jeremy knows his customers not by their names, but by their orders; he keeps a jar of keys that represent different people’s stories and heartbreaks, and can recount every one of them in detail. And of course, there are many long shots and close-ups, of ice cream dribbling down slices of pie and of Jones’ lovely face. Kar-Wai’s camera lingers on Elizabeth as she sleeps on the counter until Jeremy finally leans in to kiss the ice cream off her lips.

But even the artistic imagery can’t help the film rise to the ranks of In the Mood for Love. The cutaways aren’t as fluid in My Blueberry Nights. They aren’t mixed in properly, and it makes the film feel scattered, lacking in cohesion. It would be pretentious except that Kar-Wai has too light a touch for that. Still, his stylistic choices seem haphazard and occasionally confusing.

The film has some successes. Although Kar-Wai lost me during Elizabeth’s travels, the premise of her relationship with Jeremy is sweet. The score is melodic and suits the mood well. And the performances are good, with an above par showing from Portman (who often sells herself short) and a solid delivery by Jones.

My Blueberry Nights may not be Kar-Wai’s best work; it’s thin on filling and has a flaky crust. But it sure looks tempting through the bakery window.

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