My Blueberry Nights * *

Posted: April 18, 2008

Directed by Wong Kar Wai. With Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz. Distributed by the Weinstein Co. 1 hour, 30 mins. PG-13 (profanity, alcohol, violence, slo-mo smooching, adult themes). Playing at: Ritz East and Showcase at the Ritz Center/NJ

A gauzy romance disguised as a road movie - or a sputtering road movie disguised as a romance - My Blueberry Nights is full of dreamy slo-mo shots of singer Norah Jones forking a slice of pie in a glow-y, Hopperesque cafe run by Jude Law.

Surprisingly, considering filmmaker Wong Kar Wai's infatuation with his leading lady, the song that keeps repeating in this torchy affair isn't one of Jones' - it's Cat Power's "The Greatest." Over, over and over again.

Jones isn't bad as Elizabeth, a lovelorn New Yorker who wanders into Jeremy's (Law's) diner with heartbreak all over her face. She and the blue-eyed Brit trade a few wise, sad words about relationships, and then Jeremy pushes a plate of blueberry pie in Elizabeth's direction and serves up malarkey with the coffee - stuff about making choices and moving on.

And so Elizabeth does.

First to Memphis, where she lands two jobs (barmaid and diner waitress) and fades into the backdrop to make room for some heavy-duty melodrama about a cop who drinks too much and the wife who can't abide him. Neither David Strathairn (the cop) nor Rachel Weisz (the ex) will want to keep these encounters on their highlight reels.

Then it's on to Vegas, where Elizabeth runs into Natalie Portman - a sad soul with a wild streak who takes Elizabeth for a ride, literally and figuratively. Portman is game in bangles and blond curls, but there's no there there.

Really, there's no there anywhere in My Blueberry Nights, which is shot in the same color-saturated, zoomed-in jazz Zen style of Wong's rapturous In the Mood for Love. But where that film was elegant and exotic - not to mention erotic - the Hong Kong director's efforts to transplant things to a distinctly American tableau fail. Prettily, but miserably. - Steven Rea


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