Indeed, there was Norah Jones, acting as diligently as she could in this road-trip movie about a girl who falls for a guy (Jude Law) who serves her blueberry pie after-hours in a coffee shop. (I said it had a story. I didn't say it was a good one.) At first Jones' acting was tolerably bad. But as My Blueberry Nights wandered from one lifeless plotline to another, her acting progressed from high-school-drama-class caliber to please-make-it-stop levels. At best, Jones was a diversion. Who does she look like? I kept asking. Then it struck me. Norah Jones looks like Vanity, the 1980s pop-music prot & eacute;g & eacute; of Prince. Vanity, however, brought a coked-up hilarity to everything she did. Jones, at her loopiest, just seems to be microbrewed.
As bad as Jones is, Chan Marshall (Cat Power) is even worse. The use of musicians as actors used to be a Kar-wai Wong habit that I found charming. Now it terrifies me. I kept wondering if Jude Law's flat performance was due to his feeling as bored with singer-songwriters as I am. But since "acting is reacting," I'm going to blame his grimace-y, shtick-filled job on his two co-stars. I never thought I'd be happy to see Queen Amidala again, but Natalie Portman's turn as a poker hustler is the only engaging performance in the entire film. By the time she flirts her way into Jones' character's life, however, the whole story has become a long haul instead of a road trip. (Rated PG-13)