Though I once had a Wong Kar Wai poster in my bedroom, I hadn't seenone of his movies till this weekend.
The poster, along with some stuffed kitties, were part of myroommates' not-so-elaborate ruse to temporarily convince theirlandlord I was a girl. Much like my youth and my faith in humanity,the logic of this plan has escaped me -- it had something to do with thefact I was moving my stuff in and then spending the rest of the monthupstate, and while it would be OK for this ghostly occupant to be acareer-minded girl living a few days with her friends before moving toher new place, it would decidedly not be OK if the room were beingused by a property-values-crushing sleazebag who just didn't want topay rent before he was actually living there.
A couple weeks later, the fake me moved out and the real me moved in.Having no decorations of my own, the Kar Wai poster stayed up. (Asfor the stuffed kitties, I told my roommates they were stolen. A lieas hilarious as it was bold: as if I'd ever let a stranger lay afinger on Mr. Whiskers.)
Ever since then, Kar Wai's movies have been linked in my mind withinexplicable women's interests, like heirloom tomatoes and worldpeace. The title of his latest, My Blueberry Nights, did notstand ready to dispel that illusion, but once you're used to being anadult male who regularly sees children's movies by himself, seeing apotential chick flick by your lonesome doesn't even register on theembarrassment scale.
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Norah Jones' boyfriend has left her. In a state of mild shock, shegoes looking for him at his regular haunts, among them Jude Law'scafe. Law's still dazed from the woman who left him, and readilylends Jones a sympathetic ear.
Before their relationship can progress beyond commiseration over beerand pie, Jones leaves New York. Her plans aren't any deeper thangetting away from her ex and saving up to buy a car, and as she movesaround the country, she seems to gravitate to other broken people,among them alcoholic cop David Strathairn and brash gambler NataliePortman. In strange ways, watching these people helps Jones begin toput herself back together.
My Blueberry Nights is something of a road movie, and like mostroad movies, it's not too cohesive, especially in its third act.Other than Jones' platonic letters to Law, there's not much tying ittogether beyond a deep, hollowed-out feeling of yearning -- now don'trush out to the theater all at once -- which Kar Wai and his talentedcast explore with minimal melodrama.
Yet that sense of loss and how its victims handle it is treated sowell you almost don't need some fancypants linear plot. We're nottalking about moony, romantic heartbreak, either; we're talking thekind where Strathairn goes so nuts at the sight of his ex's new manthat he breaks a bottle in the man's face. Good times.
This means it's also blessedly free of punishingly whimsical schmalzlike setting up your living room on your boyfriend's lawn or couplesbonding over a shared love of bands so indie their own lead singershaven't heard of them. My Blueberry Nights' characters are alittle too busy with suicide, felonious assault and grifting to findthe time to outcharm each other. Besides, in their relationships,the charm died a good long time ago.
Kar Wai's sympathy for these desperate people keeps the movie'semotional level working long after the story's drifted into "and thenthis happened" territory. Told in a quiet, numb style that mirrorsJones' depression, My Blueberry Nights may be a little too slowand disconnected to work for everyone, and there are times when thedialogue labors. You'll feel what the characters are going through,though, and in some ways, that's what the movies are for.