Review of My Blueberry Nights


Movie Review: "My Blueberry Nights"

-- Rating: PG-13 (violence, smoking, drinking)
Length: 95 minutes
Release Date: Nov. 28, 2007
Directed by: Kar Wai Wong
Genre: Drama/Romance

Drama and romance films rarely strike a perfect balance between the two. "My Blueberry Nights" falls into the familiar trap of following standard storylines and plot twists; however, its cinematography and solid cast are more than deserving of a place in the collections of most romance movie fans.

The movie explores the life of Elizabeth (Norah Jones) as she ends a long-term relationship with an ex-boyfriend and sets off to discover herself. She is prompted to do this by Jeremy (Jude Law) and leaves town after the breakup. Elizabeth makes friends with an alcoholic police officer named Arnie (David Strathairn). Arnie's wife (Rachel Weisz) has left him, and he turns to alcohol to dull his pain. Later, Elizabeth meets a gambler named Leslie (Natalie Portman) who ultimately provides the impetus for her to return home and face what she left behind.

The acting in this movie is one of its two major saving graces. Jones consistently portrays a woman who acts without reason or accountability, flitting between locations and jobs aimlessly as she's tossed around by the movie's underlying current. Law creates more than a few memorable moments in his short time on film and definitely gives the vibe of a man struggling with his love. Straitharn and Weisz play their small roles admirably and bring the otherwise cookie-cutter characters to life with notable charm. Portman steals the show in almost every scene that she enters. Her character, Leslie, seems to take over the starring role towards the end of the film.

The movie's cinematography borrows heavily from both the romance and drama genres. Camera angles switch between intimate views and an almost film-noir take on events, and the transitions switch seamlessly between characters and events without a noticeable break. The camera direction is another strong element of the movie, helping it overcome noticeable troubles in other areas.

The script ultimately lies at the heart of the movie's ultimate mediocrity. Skilled actors and camera professionals can only do so much with a flawed and predictable plot, and "My Blueberry Nights" suffers heavily from these obvious drawbacks. The movie's director is also the writer, and a lack of oversight from other parties seems to have left the script dull and lifeless, with plot twists being almost too predictable. Viewers are likely to begin wondering when the real twist in the plot will occur as they easily guess each turn. They will discover that every element of the plot follows the same paint-by-numbers approach to storytelling.

The film's pacing plods along steadily. It never picks up too much momentum but moves along at an obvious pace toward the conclusion. This is likely due to the script itself not having much momentum, but even the tense moments create a feeling that the story is just going through the motions instead of conveying a real sense of drama. The pacing is as formulaic as the script, and it greatly detracts from the insightful cinematography and well-delivered performances that help elevate the movie.

"My Blueberry Nights" easily encapsulates the vision of the director. Many directors who also write find themselves bogged down in characters that seem painfully obvious clich├ęs drawn from the director's life, but Wong manages to avoid this pitfall to a good extent. This clearly shows skill on the part of the director, as does the cinematography and ability to draw solid performances from a handful of major actors. The largest problem is the conflict between writer and director or the lack thereof. Writers and directors must often strike compromises between their visions that may ultimately result in a strengthened plot and sharper vision, but this is difficult when one person fills both roles.

The directorial prowess of the movie, its effective delivery, and impressive acting keep the film from falling into obscurity. The problems with the paint-by-numbers plot and plodding pace are not enough to drag the movie down too far. Fans of the romance genre are likely to enjoy the film, even if the dramatic aspect is lacking. Drama fans are likely to see every plot twist coming from the first hint and find themselves wishing for something to happen to create a bit more suspense or at least leave them guessing at some point in the film.

"My Blueberry Nights" is a solid choice for a girl's night out or a similar evening with friends. It's unlikely to gain many fans amongst different genres and isn't an essential part of any collection, but it will likely enjoy a place alongside other tried-and-true formula-based films.

Rating: 3 out of 5