The 'Blueberry' Blahs

Friday, April 18, 2008

"My Blueberry Nights" is for people who want to see how cute singer Norah Jones looks in different hats. Or when she parts her lips. Or lies asleep on a countertop. And wait! That's not all. The movie, directed and co-written by Wong Kar Wai, is also about how cute Jude Law looks in a woolen cap. Or standing outside the diner where his character works. And smoking roll-up cigarettes.

Somewhere among these endless shots, technically, there is a story. Fractured, tentative, oh-so-artsy and very much in the style of Wong's previous Hong Kong-set boy-meets-girl movies. But this time, the effect is contrived: a star-driven pseudo-indie affair that will please neither celebrity worshipers nor cineastes.

Elizabeth (Jones) and Jeremy (Law), who meet in a diner, are getting over romantic relationships that went sour. After enjoying his blueberry pie and striking up a friendship, she crosses America on a soul-searching trip that clearly is going to bring her back into Jeremy's arms. But for the time being, as a waitress in Nevada, she'll have a friendly extended encounter with Leslie (Natalie Portman), a gambler on a losing streak with daddy issues. And while he awaits the inevitable, Jeremy mopes and smokes at the diner.

These middle episodes, which include an embarrassingly melodramatic subplot starring David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz as bitter, sparring ex-lovers, take the story nowhere. They simply eat up the clock until Elizabeth heads east -- back where the pie is good and where, best of all, the movie is sure to end.

-- Desson Thomson

My Blueberry Nights PG-13, 90 minutes Contains violence. Area theaters. My Blueberry Nights PG-13, 90 minutes Contains violence. Area theaters.

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