Published May 08, 2008Watching the first English language film by an acclaimed foreign director is always a fascinating experience. If their usual shtick doesnt work in English, do we chalk it up to the differences in languages and cultures? Is it that were more critical when we dont have the romantic filter of subtitles and a lilting language we dont understand?
Whatever it is, its a problem in Wong Kar Wais first English language feature, My Blueberry Nights. The film looks stunning, however. The director employs a lot of visual techniques that will seem familiar to his fans: the lushly coloured, richly textured landscapes and slow motion shots of emotionally heavy moments set to a heartbreaking soundtrack are plentiful. Unfortunately, every time the actors opens their mouths, the magic is broken. The acting is pretty good but the simple dialogue and voiceover narration (which have always worked so well in Wongs other films) seem painfully clichéd.
Recently dumped Elizabeth (Norah Jones, in her cinematic debut) leaves the comfort of her nightly pie and ice cream at a local NYC bakery, where the kind (and cute) owner Jeremy (Jude Law) listens to her woes, and sets out on a road trip across the vast expanse of America to find herself and mend her broken heart. Along the way, Elizabeth encounters other sad, broken people, from alcoholic cop Arnie (David Strathairn) and his sexy, young ex-wife Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz) to gambling addict Leslie (Natalie Portman).
The whole film works great as a love letter to the U. S. of A. Sprawling landscapes, convertible cars, dive bars and casinos, neon signs and sad faces all sparkle under the magical eye of Wongs camera. If the film was silent (save for the gorgeous soundtrack by Ry Cooder) it might have been perfect. Alas, everyone spoils it by acting the heck out of their hackneyed lines.
An aside: Jude Law is actually English, right? So why does his Manchester accent sound so clumsy? Fellow Brit Rachel Weisz does a much better job with her Memphis drawl. (Alliance)