A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this romantic drama, while generally dreamy in tone, takes on some heavy subjects, including adultery, betrayal, and death. Characters also swear ("f--k" pops up infrequently), smoke, drink heavily, and gamble. In one scene, a man points a gun at a woman he claims to love more than anything in the world (except for, perhaps, liquor). A drunk driver is shown slumped over the wheel after a fatal car accident. A kiss that's supposed to be tender feels a little invasive, too.
What's the story?
The big headline? Norah Jones can act. As Elizabeth, a woman bereft after a break-up in MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS, she's more than compelling -- she's believable. She leaves her keys at a local cafe run by Jeremy (Jude Law, swoony as usual), hoping that her errant boyfriend will come and get them. But he never does; meanwhile, a friendship has developed between Elizabeth and Jeremy. But she's not ready for it, so she hits the road, stopping first in Texas, where she closely observes how love can rend two souls -- not soulmates -- asunder, and then in Nevada, where she discovers that bravado only gets you so far.
Is it any good?
Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai is clearly talented: He sees the world from interesting angles, filtered through striking colors. But he shows off here, eschewing subtlety for stand-out style. It can be maddening: When a heartbroken cop is metaphorically kicked to the ground, Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" plays full-blast, then recedes mid-sentence. In other moments, shots of ice cream dripping over pie indicate transitions between particularly sweet scenes.
Had Wai opted for storytelling that emphasized the story rather than the telling, My Blueberry Nights (which debuted at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival) would have been far more endearing. (And, on a superficial note, how many women would really run away from a guy who's kind, listens well, bakes, and looks like Jude Law?!?) As it is, the movie is primarily a showcase for acting, both strong (Rachel Weisz and David Strathairn, as Sue Lynne and Arnie, channel Stella and Stanley from A Streetcar Named Desire) and transcendent (Natalie Portman is tragic as foul-mouthed and yet still somehow regal gambler Leslie).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the relationships in the film. Are there any similarities among them? Any differences? Why does everyone seem so isolated? And, for that matter, why is Hollywood attracted to "seekers" like Elizabeth? Does she learn anything in the end? What lessons does she discover, and how does she apply them to her life?
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