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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 8, 2008
I really wanted to like this movie. I remember when the buzz surrounding this movie started flooding in during the beginning of 2007 and everyone was predicting it for all kinds of awards beings that it was Kar Wai Wong's first English language film and the casting of singer songwriter Norah Jones in the lead role was particularly interesting. I waited patiently for the buzz to turn into full-fledged madness but it seemed as if no sooner did the buzz begin then the buzz died and before I knew it the film wasn't even being released for a wide release and I had to wait until it was available on DVD before I could see it. Regardless of the fact that it managed only one nomination (at Cannes mind you) I still really wanted to see this film, and so I did, and now that Cannes nomination baffles me, because `My Blueberry Nights' is very disappointing.

`My Blueberry Nights' gets off to a sour start. In fact for the first twenty minutes or so absolutely nothing happens. We see Elizabeth, a frantic stalker-type ex-girlfriend going in and out of a bakery where she continues to ask the owner Jeremy if he has seen the man she was last in there with and they eat some pie and she watches some surveillance videos and cries and she gives him her keys to give to her ex and then she picks up and leaves town. I know that sounds like a lot, but it's not when you watch it. It's slow moving and rather vapid.

In fact the whole movie feels rather vapid.

There are a lot of critics who talk about Kar Wai Wong's infatuation with lovesickness, but I really didn't gather that here. I saw glimpses of it, sure, but overall the feeling I was left with was more empty than fulfilled. Sadly this was the first Kar Wai Wong film I have seen (but I do have `In the Mood for Love' in my Netflix queue) and I am left a little confused as to why this director is so lauded. I will allow his other films to change my mind though.

The acting is decent for the most part, excels in some areas and falls flat in others. Norah Jones is beyond doubt a phenomenal singer and musician. Her music touches my soul. Her acting is uninspired and bland. There is a part in the film when Faison's character says quite frankly to Weisz's character that he doesn't know what her ex-husband ever saw in her. As he was speaking those words I was thinking the same thing, but about Jones's character, wondering how anyone could find her remotely interesting. Her eyes are dead and she embodies no real emotion. Jude Law is charming across the board; a little obnoxious in some areas but overall strong. David Strathairn is stronger still as the alcoholic police officer Arnie. His subtle outbursts within his own skin are far too good for the movie he inhabits. Rachel Weisz is probably the most entertaining thing about this movie in the way that Thandie Newton is the most entertaining thing about `Crash'; a little uneven but uneven to perfection. Natalie Portman is entertaining yet nothing impressive. Her performance is decent, but doesn't really add anything to her character.

I also found the incessant, repetitive use of Norah Jones's music throughout the beginning portion of the film to be rather unnecessary and annoying.

By the time the film was wrapping up I was wondering what it was all about, what the whole purpose of this exercise was. Sure, Elizabeth was supposed to find herself out on the road with all these people she doesn't understand and eventually realize that Jeremy is the one she wants to be with, but that point could have been delivered a little clearer and a little more interestingly. I just found `My Blueberry Nights' to be a waste of talent and concept and apparently director, unless all of his films are like this and I'm just not intelligent enough to `get' them.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Kar Wai Wong is as much a visual artist as a film director and his forté has always been making beautiful, multileveled images on a screen that is trying to see clearly the outlines of character development. Such is the case in his first English language film MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, a creation he wrote (with Lawrence Block) as well as directed. While the 'story' boasts a cast of fine actors, the emphasis seems less on character delineation than on creating a cinematic stream of consciousness.

A New York Russian bakery/café is operated by immigrant Jeremy (Jude Law) and into this milieu comes the newly jilted Elizabeth (Norah Jones - who also provides much of he sound track singing for the film). She leaves her boyfriend's keys with Jeremy as a sign of resignation but continues to nightly check to see if her ex-boyfriend has shown up to claim them. This is the premise for the formation of a bond between Jeremy and Elizabeth, but without solidifying that bond, Elizabeth runs off to greener pastures. She settles in Tennessee where she finds work as both a waitress and a bar maid and meets the down and out alcoholic policeman Arlo (David Strathairn) who pines away for his tacky, gallivanting wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz). Leaving that story piece unresolved, Elizabeth then moves to Las Vegas where she becomes friends with a young, loser gambler Leslie (Natalie Portman) who manages to waste Elizabeth's savings for a car on yet another misjudged gambling night. Through this cavalcade of losers Elizabeth continues to write postcards to Jeremy and the ending is blatantly predictable.

There are some moments of memorable dialog: 'Sometimes, even if you have the keys those doors still can't be opened. Can they? ' 'Even if the door is open, the person you're looking for may not be there'. But for the most part this is a visual feast for those who love Kar Wai Wong's genre. The plot is thin as is the dialogue and the actors work to make the most of the outlines of conversation that they embellish with their own spontaneous words. If it feels improvised to the viewer then the viewer has entered the realm of Kar Wai Wong. This is a film for art film lovers - it is very beautiful to watch! Grady Harp, July 08
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40 of 53 people found the following review helpful
There is much in Wong Kar-Wai's first all English production to admire, but the cast, the dialogue, and the translation of Asian aesthetics unto accent-dimmed performances is so pronounced we have no option but to enjoy the movie solely for its artistic merit while lamenting its prosaic shortcomings. The usual antics and brilliance of the director are all deployed to a whimsical effectiveness, if sometimes deliberately indulged. The usual close-ups and askance visual is present frame after frame, with opaque intrusions, slantwise peering, obstructed lavishness, and aided by the diner/pub setting the movie is infused with neon latency. In fact the plot is simple and very bleak. Action hardly ever takes place during the day, save for the occasional interlude which seems to be a way to mark as pronounced the comparative glare that the night offers. At times we have the camera slide its intensity along a bar or a table, stolidly stuck on a fork pricking through a slice of pie, or meandering about the outskirts of a bar, column after column, shadows crawling senselessly through a disorderly tension that seems innocent enough to hide behind the crevices of our visual. Overall the very Asian aesthetic quality of the camerawork tellingly foreshadows a candor that has us become voyeurs more so than spectators. In Asian culture it is best not to invade one's private space and here it is carried out to such beauty that it offers a sense of indiscreet respect.
Where the movie falters however is in its casting, of which some are excellent artists used in a middling unfortunate fashion. Jude Law and Natalie Portman are sensational actors but oddly cast in the drama. Their intensity is unique but too forceful for the narrative introspective layover. The graceful Norah Jones is very mediocre. She has promise but the flick rests too much on her inner turmoil to be successful since she cannot be the keystone of the narrative in a way to match the intensity and bravado of her colleagues. The story is very simple. Elizabeth is stuck on her boyfriend whose just broken-up with her. She will have to labor through her incredulousness and inability to let go. The diner's owner, played by Jude Law offers her a shoulder and an ear while terribly straining the poetic attitude of the atmosphere by introducing a dialogue that metaphor driven closes the doors it chances to open. In fact while observing the action from behind window panes or timidly joining the session while tip-toeing about a door left ajar we discover a tenuous delicacy of touch that is as fragile as Norah Jones' performance.
David Strathairn, cast as Arnie, the alcoholic policeman who cannot let go of his wife, strikes a rapport of morbid proportions with Lizzie. While on a lovelorn escapade to Memphis, Lizzie nurses her loss and begins to recover, but in the process as she learns to give up, somehow that same sense of absence transfers to Arnie who is separated from a wife who wants nothing to do with him. The perfection of his character study and depth only highlights the misses of the others, including Arnie's estranged wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz). Arnie gives up on a night of madness and overglowing anger but determines to commit suicide. Enters Natalie Portman, a southern vixen with a penchant for gambling.
The neon-hued camerawork receives added sheen from a trip to Vegas on a brand new Jaguar, only to find out that the every win is also a loss. Ultimately that is the upshot of the narrative which is brightly demented by the braggadocio devil-may care sensibility of Leslie (Natalie Portman). The death of Leslie's father causes a reunion between Lizzie and the diner's proprietor Jeremy, who functions as the jar of sweets everyone is sure with due time Lizzie will find her way to. Time spent through glowing hues that distil an aura of hopeless references and tame performances that jarr all the more because uninspired while beset by the contrasting tenderness of the visual.
A movie worth watching, because of the addictive intensity provided by the camerawork of Darius Khondji, but the elegiac tone of a "Chungking Express" or "In the Mood for Love" is affected by the sobering vapidity of a plot that plays with the notion of loss and gain by using a maudlin dialogue and a cloyed, exhausted attempt at allegorizing by way of sappy, overburdened poetics.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 2008
This movie has a great cast. David Strathairn is superb as the Memphis cop with the runaway wife, and Rachel Weisz is also fantastic. Actually, I think Norah Jones is really good, in a piece of inspired casting and a natural performance. Her character is the touchstone of the movie. The part of the movie from her arrival in Memphis, the bar with Strathairn and Weisz and other characters...really riveting.

The rest of the movie doesn't quite live up to that part, though. Jude Law is pretty good, kind of playing himself, but those scenes are a little too cute. Natalie Portman shows her increasing versatility as an actress and there are some very warm and compelling scenes during that part, but it didn't quite come together.

The whole movie has an improvisational feel to it that is alternately very exciting and unpredictable, and then kind of missing and a little dumb. However, good cinematography and acting more or less carry it through. I'm a fan of Norah Jones' music but didn't expect her to be that great in this movie. I was surprised that she was actually pretty good. I think she should do another movie at some point, maybe with this director - not just any director. Music is good, too, particularly the Cassandra Wilson Harvest Moon performance.

All in all, worth seeing, in a sort of experimental way. Kind of reminded me at times of Paris, Texas.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2008
This movie offers you a lot more than your ordinary love story. It gives you an insight into what makes us essentially human. The actors and actresses did a good job portraying their flawed and fragile characters, making you laugh,cry and smile with them. Norah Jones is great as an actress - her character is the most complex of all, yet the most human.You could feel what her character goes through, what she's thinking and feeling. Not bad at all for a first timer. Definitely a movie that I'd watch again and again.

Hope this helps.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Even though I have Wong Kar-Wai's biggest, and most notable, films on my DVD shelves thanks to the Criterion Collection--I must admit that "My Blueberry Nights" escaped my notice upon its release. It's particularly strange considering the top line talent of Jude Law, Natalie Portman, David Strathairn, and Rachel Wiesz (any one of which, on their own, might have been a draw for me) headlining the cast. "My Blueberry Nights," as you might have surmised by the actors, is an English language film that utilizes many of the trademark elements of Wong Kar-Wai's previous efforts. The film's quiet introspection and melancholia are offset by a certain voyeuristic allure brought about in the cinematography. It's a lovely film to look at--but the narrative seems a bit slight at the end of the day.

With all the great talent in the cast, it's an unusual choice to put singer Norah Jones in the lead. The film brings Jones and Law together in a New York eatery as Jones is reeling from a broken relationship. The two meet regularly and become friends and speak philosophically about pie amongst other metaphorical topics. Before you can say "See ya...," Jones is off to Memphis where she befriends a drunken police officer (Strathairn) tragically coping with the disintegration of his marriage to Weisz. When this concludes, Jones heads further west to meet up with itinerant gambler Portman for some additional life lessons. Each of the stops provides some nice moments--Weisz is particularly lively--but by the time Jones is headed back to the Big Apple, I'm not sure any larger meaning stuck with me.

In and of itself, I might have been fine with that as well. I suppose my primary lack of interest in "My Blueberry Nights" comes from the casting of Norah Jones herself. Jones is strangely expressionless and monotone and, yet, every major character in the film is drawn to her. I would rather have spent more time with anyone else in this film! Law is great, Strathairn is reliable, Portman is appealing, and Weisz is colorful. Unfortunately, they all circle around a rather empty center. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from seeing "My Blueberry Nights," it just didn't add up to much for me. It was pleasant in the moment, but I won't remember it a month from now. KGHarris, 12/10.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 24, 2009
This was a small movie that wasn't advertised very much. I didn't hear about it until after it was in theaters, but was immediately interested, because I had always liked Norah Jones' music. The movie surprised me. It's beautifully shot (the coloring of the film is breathtaking), and all of the characters are interesting people who's lives you get a small glimpse into. The story, which is about Lizzie (Jones), who goes on an adventure after she realizes that her boyfriend is cheating on her, and realizes what she left behind is really what she truly loves. It's heart-warming, and even if it's not exactly an academy-award winner, I encourage anyone to give it a try. It's a beautiful movie that only some people will be able to see as true art.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
What I like most about "My Blueberry Nights" is the great soundtrack album My Blueberry Nights. Wong Kar-Wai who won an award at Cannes for Happy Together directed his first English language film. Unfortunately, it doesn't work very well. Jude Law is always interesting to watch for me. His two Oscar nominations for "The Talented Mr. Ripley" and "Cold Mountain" gave much better stories and characters than does this film. Darius Khondji, the Oscar nominee for "Evita," does stunning work with the cinematography. However, time lapse photography of ice cream melting on a blueberry pie might make me hungry, but it doesn't compensate for the lack of a story. Law's Jeremy and Norah Jones' Elizabeth seem like they are destined to become romantically linked. After nights in the pie shop, Jones takes off which takes her to several locations. Rachel Weisz who won a supporting Oscar & Golden Globe for "The Constant Gardener" plays the sleazy wife Sue Lynne to David Strathairn's boozy policeman. I actually liked Strathairn more in this film than in his Oscar nominated performance for "Good Night & Good Luck" He has such an unrequited love and such a tragic demise. Down the road, Elizabeth runs into Natalie Portman's gambler character who seems juvenile, untrustworthy and spoiled. However, Jones can't hold her own in frame with Portman and the film loses its path, as it seems to take a rabbit trail rather than illuminating the Elizabeth-Jeremy story. Chan Marshall shows up as Jeremy's ex. The big change in the movie comes as Jeremy tosses a jar of keys he'd been keeping at the diner. While this film is handsomely filmed with good-looking talented actors and has a great soundtrack, it's rather awkward as a film, going nowhere slowly. Taxi!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2011
On the extras, Norah Jones said that this movie plays out like a jazz song. I think that is an accurate description. My Blueberry Nights is upbeat, harmonic, soulful, and has a strong sense of rhythm with improvised camera work (which can be a bit grating at times). The story is very basic, a girl deals with her heartbreak by visiting a pie shop and soon runs away from a potential romance by traveling across America where she meets offbeat characters while sending postcards to her potential love interest. The actors push a mediocre storyline into a kinda good movie, particularly Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, and Natalie Portman.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2008
Considering the negative response this film has generated, I went into the movie theater not expecting much. The premise of the movie sounded interesting so I figured--why not give it a try. I'm glad I did. I actually liked it. To tell you the truth, I liked it a lot more than 2046. I will admit Norah Jones was not very good. I liked the cinematography and score. I thought David Strathairn and Natalie Portman were exceptionally good. The story reminded me of something Wim Wenders would've written: you never know what you have until you lose it. Very existentialist. Go see WINGS OF DESIRE to know what I'm talking about.
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