At the center of the drama is Elizabeth (Norah Jones, in a competent screen debut), who decides to take a journey of self-discovery across America. Her catalyst: a tragic break-up.
Along the way, she encounters people in the midst of trials of their own, including a tender café owner (Jude Law), a despondent cop (David Strathairn) and his troubled wife (Rachel Weisz) and a happy-go-lucky gambler (Natalie Portman). The journey is characterized by long, poignant images of people with their suffering or their addictions.
These almost archetypal people of America are compelling in their frailty. Elizabeth learns simply by watching them.
The film’s most heartrending moments come from Strathairn’s powerful yet subtle performance as Arnie, the abandoned husband. Not since John C. Reilly in Chicago has the dejected spouse role been executed to such perfection.
All in all, the film succeeds in being a unique and experimental, yet it feels at times detached, almost as if it belongs in another cultural context. Kar Wai has all the depth of a seasoned filmmaker, but there are certain nuances of the American psyche that seem to be forgotten.
The tension in this film is the clash of Kar Wai’s contemplative tone (present in both In the Mood for Love and 2046) and the reality of fast-paced American life. The clash prevents its brilliance.
Grade: B +
My Blueberry Nights releases in select theaters April 4.