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As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
There is a lot to be said about "Broken Flowers". Jim Jarmusch wrote this especially for Bill Murray and that is pretty damn evident. This script caters to everything that Bill Murray does well, from the depressed look of sadness all over his face to his ability to manipulate the dialogue into something entirely different that you might originally think it would be. Murray is a genius when he is subtle. Here, he is given room to run, play, and do whatever the hell he wants to do. This is his film, from beginning to end, but that hinders the picture more than it helps it. On a normal day, I would have loved "Broken Flowers" and probably given it a 10/10 and heralded it as the best film of the year. I typically love these slow going sleepers with depth and fire buried underneath. "Lost In Translation" was amazing, and it was likely the most boring film ever made...until now. "Broken Flowers" was a good film with some amazing performances, but little else there. Jim Jarmusch went for too little too often and it radiates nothing but dreariness from the screen.
In the same stereotypical role as usual, Bill Murray stars as Don Johnston, a middle aged man going through somewhat of a crisis. He made quite a bit of money off some computers in the 1980's and he was notorious for being a Don Juan during this time. He slept with countless women all over the country. We find Don middle-aged, with his girlfriend (Julie Delpy) walking out the door because he cannot seem to give up his womanizing ways. We then see him receive a mysterious letter, with no postmark or signature, informing Don that he has a son who might be on his way to see him. After showing the letter to his best friend and neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), he is convinced to track down all of the potential mothers, bring them pink flowers, and sniff around for clues as to whom she might be. Most of the film deals with Don and his quest to find the mother of his son, though it is the son he wants more than anything else. He goes from the suburbs to the backwoods, from the airport to the rental car lot -- everywhere a person on a journey might go. Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, and Frances Conroy portray the women of his past.
The first fifteen minutes of this film are hard to watch, primarily because they are so random and pointless and boring. There is no reason for us to have to sit and watch Bill Murray stare at a bottle of Champagne for five minutes -- it gives us no further insight into his character and it does nothing but take away from time we would rather be seeing devoted to his son. But, if we have to watch someone just sit there and stare at something, who better than Bill Murray? The film picks up when Don hits the road, and it gets better and better with each new old flame he finds, but then it crashes into the boredom wall once more when he returns home. I wanted to see more with Sharon Stone and her daughter, more with the animal communicator, and much more with Frances Conroy and her real estate husband. The film shifts from the general theme of Don finding his son, to Don reconnecting with all of these old flames. He does his detective work, but it just doesn't seem very plausible. And, when the end of this film rolled around, I sat there thinking, "This cannot be the end, can it?" Normally, I would love such an ambiguous ending, but not on a film like this. We need something of substance somewhere. Sure, there was substance in the whole damn thing, but substance without some resolution is nothing but chaos.
But, it is hard to hate the film. Bill Murray gets better and better with each new role he takes, and you should expect nothing but perfection with Murray playing a character that was written especially for him. He is amazing as Don Johnston, and he carries entire scenes with his facial expressions alone. As Winston, Jeffrey Wright proves why he is one of the greatest actors working today. Compare his performance in "Angels In America" to the Ethiopian detective in "Broken Flowers" -- if that does not prove his talent, nothing will. The bright little gems of the film were Don's ladies, especially Jessica Lange as an animal communicator who does not remember Don in such a fond light, and Frances Conroy as the typical suburban housewife, who still seems like she wants Don, but just cannot get the words out. The ladies in this film steal the show, and help add some entertainment to the otherwise lackadaisical scenes of Murray just standing there, looking despondent, tears forming in his eyes. But, as said before, who else but Bill Murray could actually pull that off to perfection?
"Broken Flowers" works on several levels, but entertainment value is certainly not one of them. Jim Jarmusch has always brought us unusual fare, but this seemed like it was being boring for the sake of being boring...he was trying to be too much like all of the other films out there that drag along. He essentially wrote Bill Murray the same film Murray has done for the past three years. This was "Lost In Translation" with multiple women, "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" without the son popping up so early in the film. Take my word for it -- when you get to the end of this film and see Bill Murray in the street, you will be thinking the same thing that I was thinking. I love ambiguity and I love art-house and I love independent cinema, but enough is enough. Sometimes I want a resolution. Sometimes I want to see the characters I have grown to love find some happiness and meaning. If I wanted to watch people stare for two hours, I would walk naked through the mall.
- added 10/16/2005, 04:40 PM
Ok, so there was no resolution. I'm still angry
about that. And yes, it was pretentious, though
that's not surprising. But! I want meaning. I
drove half an hour to find a theater playing it,
sat there in said empty theater, and left with a
puzzled look. Not fair. So after too much thought,
this is what I think:
if you follow the realization Bill hits during the
ending scene as the camera spins around him, is
realizing he probably has more than one son out
there, and he's probably even ran into atleast one
of them in the course of the film: possibly the
suave kid in dark glasses on the bus, the homeless
kid searching, or the fat kid in the very jump
suit Bill had on. Plus probably a few others I
didn't catch. I've only seen it once. Moreover,
every ex he visited had something suspicious to
add to the idea they had his son. The pink. The
typewriter. Their actions/responses. You can argue
it, but they all had something.
or it's just plain pretentious.
- added 10/18/2005, 09:45 PM
I think we are never suppose to know which of the
women had his son. We also are never really sure
if he has one at all...for all we know, Julie
Delpy might have written the note herself -- we
are even given that suspicion at the end of the
film. I think the whole film is just about Bill
Murray being lonely and going from hating the idea
of having a son to needing a son desperately. The
ending could mean a lot of things, but I think it
meant he was just as confused as we were. I
wanted more resolution from a film like this.
Amazing performances are one thing, but this kind
of indie-ripped spirit is annoying at times.
Kudos to the cast, but not the film.
grain of sand
- added 12/29/2006, 08:49 PM
I think the fact that there was no resolution is
what made this movie so good, it gives you a real
feel for dons longing to find the son he never
knew. murray was great, as usual, you could be a
child and know what murray is feeling just by his
facial expressions. I loved this movie.