Sunday, October 26, 2008

My Blueberry Nights: Grade A

My Blueberry Nights (2007)
Norah Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz; Co-Writer and Director Kar Wai Wong.

A jilted young woman (Jones) travels around the U.S. to get over her loss and get in touch with herself, but before she goes, she happens in at Jude Law’s cafĂ© where he serves her blueberry pie and they talk about love and life. In her subsequent year-long road trip, she sends him a stream of postcards. Along the way, she meets Strathairn as a drunken cop in a bar where she works nights, and encounters his estranged wife, Weisz. She meets high-stakes poker player Portman in Nevada and rides to Vegas with her. Finally Jones returns to New York and Law’s cafe, realizing that love is closer than you think.

The movie is as sweet as blueberry pie; utterly charming, leaving you feeling good. The acting is spectacular throughout, even by Jones, who also narrates and sings on the sound track. Strathairn is as good or better than he was in the 2006 Sensation of Sight. Weisz seethes with a Tennesee Williams intensity, much more passionate than her usual controlled, intellectual roles. Portman plays a character older than I would have expected and jumps from the screen with exuberance. This many big names in a movie is usually the kiss of death, but everybody puts out 100%, a tribute to Wong’s directing as much as the actors’ talents.

Cinematography is so good you could print any frame and hang it in an art gallery. There are some amazing shots, such seeing the character through a long lens, through the lettering on a shop window. Colors are fantastic. The long speech by Weisz at a nighttime bus stop seems to be done all in one take and is nothing short of courageous. There is a small amount of CGI, used artistically and perfectly. Even the editing is creative. The sound track is wonderful, with Jones singing softly, but also with original work by Ry Cooder. This is moviemaking at its best. The only criticism is that the storyline is weak to non-existent and the pace is slow. I was never bored, but this film cannot go up against a superhero flick. It’s all about the characters and their relationships, not some contrived plot.

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