My Blueberry Nights bills big names — Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz — but the Chinese director Kar Wai Kong fails to tug at heartstrings, create likable characters or have a discernible plot in his English-speaking film debut. The scenes are beautiful, but behind the glossy veneer, there’s no heart.
The film stars singer and first-time actress Norah Jones as a wide-eyed young woman who travels across the country after her boyfriend cheats on her. What she’s looking for is ambiguous. What she finds are a couple of tortured and self-centered women played by Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz.
Jones, whose emotions are limited to shock and depression, somehow ends up sweeping Jude Law off his feet. The lessons of love and loss have been long expounded upon, and better done, in Wong’s other films like Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love.
However, My Blueberry Nights has something more practical to teach: How to be crazy and still get a man. And here’s how.
1. Mull over blatantly obvious metaphors. One night, Jude Law, owner of the diner that Jones spends many a late nights in, explains to her all the pies that get eaten in the day. When Jones asks why, he says that nobody ever eats the blueberry pie, not because it’s bad or it’s the pie’s fault but just because. Of course Jones begins eating the blueberry pie, symbolic of her love life.
2. Only be seen by potential suitors through windows. One of the most beautiful aspects of Wong’s film are the shots of the characters through another medium, whether that be a window, display glass or surveillance camera. These obscured shots give the film a voyeuristic edge.
3. Speak in a way that transparently comments on love and life. Portman plays a tough-talking gambler who compulsively lies. After a bad beat, she says, “Sometimes your rhythm’s off. You read them the right way but you do the wrong thing,” obviously meant to apply to Jones’s failed love ventures. Though she finds no romantic prospects in the film, we begin to realize that her daddy loved her, whether her self-deception would let her believe it or not.
4. Pose like a ‘40s pinup in the middle of the street. One of the most striking scenes of the film is a shot of Weisz — the cheating wife to an alcoholic policeman (who, despite it all still loves her) — standing beside her convertible, wearing sunglasses while her hair blows in the wind.
5. Lie, a lot. “You need to stop taking people for their word,” Portman says to Jones after being found out for cheating Jones out of more than $2000. If My Blueberry Nights has taught me anything, it’s that lying, whether to yourself or to someone else, pays.