My Blueberry Nights

Published: Monday, May 19 2008 10:47 a.m. MDT

MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS — ** 1/2 — Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman; rated PG-13 (violence, profanity, brief gore)

The stories being told in "My Blueberry Nights" are so simple that they really don't need to be accompanied by any sorts of gimmicks.

So it is a little disconcerting to see Chinese-born filmmaker Wong Kar Wai using such a glossy, music-video style to tell the tales of loves lost and regained. That includes slow-motion, blurry camera work that is apparently meant to mimic a malfunctioning video camera.

It's to the credit of the cast that these distractions don't ruin the movie. Also, the ensemble drama has some modest charms, which includes a surprising, old-fashioned sweetness and interpretation of romance.

The early scenes of the film are set in a New York City diner/bar. The owner of this late-night hot spot, Jeremy (Jude Law), has become a counselor of sorts to his heartbroken customers.

One of them is Elizabeth (Norah Jones), who's recently learned of her boyfriend's infidelities. So these two lonely hearts swap stories over a plate of blueberry pie.

Then just as abruptly, Lizzie leaves for Memphis, where, appropriately enough, she finds a job working in a diner. There, she befriends an alcoholic cop (David Straithairn) who's still pining for his estranged wife (Rachel Weisz).

She also briefly hits the road with a gambler (Natalie Portman), while still keeping in touch, through postcards, with Jeremy, who's desperately trying to find her.

Music-savvy filmmaker Wong makes good use of Ry Cooder's bluesy score and even cast a pair of musicians in dramatic roles — in addition to Jones, indie rocker Cat Power has a brief part as Jeremy's ex-girlfriend.

He smartly doesn't require either one to do much in the way of dramatic "heavy lifting." Instead, Wong leaves that to crafty pros Law, Straithairn, Weisz and Portman.

And while the results may not hit the moody heights of Wong's 2000 hit "In the Mood for Love," it's a nice companion piece to his like-minded, 1994 drama "Chungking Express."

"My Blueberry Nights" is rated PG-13 for some brief strong violence (a bar brawl, and slapping, as well as some implied spousal abuse), scattered profanity (including one usage of the so-called, "R-rated" curse word), and brief gore (the bloody results of an auto accident). Running time: 90 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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