From almost any perspective, My Blueberry Nights is the perfect pick to open the 60th Cannes Film Festival: A noted international director (Wong Kar-Wai) making his English-language debut, with a cast of international stars (Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman) and exciting memories of past appearances at the Festival as part of the bargain – in 2004, Wong Kar-Wai's 2046 was such a fresh work that the screenings of the film had to be pushed back, as the print was literally still wet. At this morning's press screening, you could hear cineastes sigh in rapture from the opening titles – blue-glazed visions of pie and cream, indigo skies with neon-glow cityscapes leaning lazily against them.
My Blueberry Nights follows Elizabeth (Norah Jones), as her recent fresh breakup sends her down into the depths of loss and then across the country. Elizabeth lives in New York, but after friendly café owner Jeremy (Jude Law) unintentionally informs her that her boyfriend has been out with another woman, she's at a loss – spending late nights in his café, eating blueberry pie and taking comfort in his gently bruised romantic philosophies. Jeremy's place has, over the years, become a bit of a depot for broken-hearted lovers to leave their keys – why, exactly, this tradition came about is never fully explained in Wong and Lawrence Block's screenplay, but still – and he's able to share with Elizabeth some of the tales of loss and love connected to each set.
Elizabeth isn't consoled by those tales, though, and sets out rambling – we see her stop in Memphis and Nevada, get a glimpse of time spent in California and Arizona – working waitressing jobs along the way. When it was announced that Jones would be taking the lead in Wong's film, the question arose: Would Jones make the leap from pop stardom to the silver screen, as many others have tried? There's certainly no doubt that Jones has a certain presence on-screen – Wong and cinematographer Darius Khondji love to show her face, framed with a lush corona of pitch-black hair – but her skills as an actress are occasionally shaky; early in the film, she's a flat and unmoved presence; she doesn't seem to be speaking from the life of a character, but, rather, reading from the lines of a script.