Delicious disappointment

"My Blueberry Nights" is a vision of warm-lit ecstasy, but lacks the depth expected from such a masterpiece.

John Sand

Laminated on khaki menus, desserts always appear more satisfying than they are. “My Blueberry Nights,” the luscious, sugar-coated narrative, is no exception. Though we can always pray that satisfying our sweet tooth will fill us with a deeper contentment, dessert is often just dessert.

“My Blueberry Nights”

DIRECTED BY: Wong Kar-wai
STARRING: Jude Law, Norah Jones, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman
Rated: PG-13
PLAYING AT: Uptown Theatre

The Wong Kar-wai film follows Elizabeth (Norah Jones in her cinematic debut), a recovering broken heart from Manhattan, as she floats from one end of the country to another, searching for recovery. A tad flighty and overly idealistic, she leaves several side-plots in her wake: Jeremy (Jude Law), a Brit who’s settled into his life as a single, key-collecting pastry chef; Sue Lynn (Rachel Weisz), a saucy Southern divorcee from Memphis; and Leslie (Natalie Portman), whose knack for card-counting and desire for adventure can get her into trouble. Each encounter leaves Jones asking, “How do you say good bye to someone you can’t imagine living without?”

“My Blueberry Nights” is the supple delight the title promises. Reading the cast list could tell you as much, but Wong’s directing takes full advantage of our American desire for magnificence and excess. Well-played angles manipulate Law’s excessive smoking habit into a romantic search for pleasure. The soft, warm lighting glazes Weisz’s tears into droplets of gold, while a blonde afro-clad Portman smirks sexily behind the wheel of her sleek Jag.

Trashy dive bars, tedious diners and poorly lit pastry joints transform into exquisite stages displaying romantic indulgence at its finest. With each move, it seems that the stage changes but the props are all the same: Jones’s tired eyes and another attractive, thought-provoking character.

Jones, while her dialogue and emotional production occasionally fall flat, is not a deficit to the film by any means, for it relies more heavily on the characters she encounters. It’s just a shame they’re not more developed. They hit their cue each time, but the plot skips on before they develop into anything meaningful.

Each character outlines his or her tragic relationship failures. Law’s rewatching of his day-long films of diner activity on fast-forward are heartbreaking and piteous forms of self-exanimation. Portman whisks Jones on a road-trip that spans several days simply because she can’t handle the loneliness of the road. Jones admits the reason she enjoys meeting these characters is so that she can use them to mirror her innocent nature and introversion.

With its floating, Southern blues melodies (featuring Jones’s “The Story”) the soundtrack is another pack of Splenda heaped on the film. Though it sometimes may feel oversentimental, the music emphasizes the film’s sexy, dream-like quality. Also gracing the soundtrack are a couple humming Cat Power tracks, a drifty song by Amos Lee and the twangier Mavis Staples, each contributing to the film’s entrancing atmosphere.

The sweetness is where the pleasure stops, sadly. The story fails to transfigure into something deeper. The disappointment is difficult to pinpoint, because the entire film is an enchanting ride. It may be that the film forgets to develop any of the characters into breathing beings instead of leaving them as simple sets of events, or that the film’s metaphors (likening relationships to doors that should stay open and such) are a bit obvious and played out.

Dissatisfaction doesn’t set in until an hour or so after the credits roll, when all you can think about is the surplus calories you’re left to work off. Be careful about expecting too much or over-indulging. “My Blueberry Nights” is a treat for those who love sheer beauty and painful, romantic longing, but the wrap-up finale and overemphasized metaphors may leave some with a minor toothache.