Broken Flowers (2005)
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The only weakness for me is rooted in the film's strength: I feel like there's not quite enough here.
Murray's character is beleaguered and despondent, Murray plays him with perfect subtlety. This is fun and fascinating to watch; I found myself hanging onto every little expression on Murray's face. But, the combination of his passive, muted performance and the spare storytelling left me wanting more. It just doesn't have as much impact as I feel it could have. So, yes, it's wonderful minimalism, but perhaps a bit too slight of a movie to have any lasting resonance.
Bill Murray has added another very good performance to his career, and Jim Jarmusch has made another compact little gem (unlike some of his more recent films). Unique and entertaining. Definitely worth seeing.
If you're not familiar with the movies of Jim Jarmusch, "Broken Flowers" is a nice introduction, as it's the most accessible Jarmusch film I've seen. I'm not a huge fan, but I liked this movie quite a lot. Don receives an anonymous letter one day from a past girlfriend, telling him he has a 19-year-old son who may come looking for him. Murray's friend, Winston (played amusingly by the chameleon Jeffrey Wright), convinces him to track down a handful of women who could have possibly been the mother and resolve the mystery. Don agrees to it, seemingly not so much because he has a need to know but because he has nothing better to do. What follows is a series of scenes with each past girlfriend, during which their interactions with Don tell us heaps about their relationship back when they were dating. Some are affectionate, some are distant, one is downright scarily angry, but all are played beautifully by a quartet of actresses: Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.
This is Jarmusch, so there aren't necessarily any tidy answers, and I don't think I give anything away by saying that the mystery is never solved. Life is messy, and it doesn't always happily resolve itself just because we want it to. I liked how subtle the film was; Don doesn't make any huge ground-breaking discoveries about himself, but nevertheless you sense that he's a slightly different person after his journey than he was before it.
You'll have to be patient, as Jarmusch tells his story very slowly, and nearly all of Don's interaction with others is ponderously awkward. But the movie slowly begins to fascinate, and you find yourself watching the faces of the women he visits (and examining the visible details of their lives) much in the same way that Don is himself, looking for the slightest hint that she might be the one who sent that fateful letter.
A very fine film, poignant and sad in a rather obscure way, and one that stays in your mind for a while after seeing it.
I am not a film buff, but am a theater person. Though I don't know all of Jarmusch's previous films, tactics, or techniques, I do understand some basic principles of storytelling, and I feel that this did not meet them satisfactorily. It is a beautiful and satisfying thing for the writer to leave something to the audiences' imagination, making them engage their imaginations to complete the story rather than remain passive viewers who are spoon fed answers and entertainment.But this can be taken too far, and I felt that the film left too much to the audience, without providing enough meat to sink our imaginations into.
The one really touching moment came,I thought, when at the end of his list of former girlfriends, he visits a graveyard and the gravestone of a former flame. A close shot catches Murray with tears welling in his eyes. This would have been a terrific moment...if we hadn't been made to wait so long that we didn't even care.
I agree with other comments that I saw little to no trace of the Don Juan that could have attracted so many women (including the four women in the film whom he supposedly bedded the same year). Even if he had had an incredible vigor in the past, why would he have a gorgeous girlfriend apparently 20 years his junior at present? And what does he want? I was never able to discover that. Without any seeming motivation and without the development of relationships or any type of build that culminated in anything significant, I felt cheated by the end. Any point that could be made in the film feels like it could have been made in the first 30 minutes. After that it was just more of the same. Whereas Lost in Translation made a statement about the loneliness of two people in a foreign country by its slow pace, it also interwove the pacing with a touching and unconventional relationship that gave the audience something to engage in and watch develop. Nothing seemed to develop here. Which raises the question, Why should we care?
"Broken Flowers" is a travelogue and like most Jarmusch films, the story is more concerned with the journey but not so much about the destination. Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a man who we know little about. We know he's single and we know he's had some flame's in the past. The last one just walked out on him. When Don receives an anonymous letter from one of these old flames, he learns that he has a twenty year old son who might be looking for him." Don thinks this is a joke but takes the advice from a friend to unfold the mystery by tracking down his past flings. He flies somewhere to a generic American place, rents a car and begins his investigation. Each ex has an individual personality but most of them share something similar. They are content and have moved on from the past. One of the ex's we meet works in real estate and decides it would be a good idea for her to get into the water business because "one day in the near future it will be more valuable then oil." The atmosphere is awkward and rather then care whether this woman is responsible for the anonymous letter, we just feel like getting out of there. The film's journey is absurd in many ways because we are never sure what the real point is. What is Don going to do if he does find his son? This where Bill Murray's credit as an actor shines through. We see from his small facial gestures that he is empty, and sad. There is a sense of longing as if life took a wrong turn somewhere and it is only now that he is realizing it. The ending of "Broken Flowers" is what really makes the film special. Don't expect too much or too little. Just see it. Its inspiring, hopeful and better then any other movie this year. The film also has a great soundtrack by Ethiopian musician, Mulatu Astatke. And we see in the credits that Jarmusch dedicated the film to French filmmaker Jean Eustache. Jean Eustache made a phenomenal film in the 1960's titled, "The Mother and The Whore". He had an influence on John Cassavetes and likewise both had an influence on Jim Jarmusch.
Then I stumbled across it on one of the TV movie channels and sat down and watched it. Perhaps it was the lack of any expectations on my part, but I found this movie fascinating. Bill Murray has cornered the market on middle aged male guilt and regret. Between this film, Lost in Translation and the Life Aquatic he presents us with a very real sense of what it means to be in your mid fifties and contemplating all that has been missed while pursuing something else.
The movie moves slowly, at a measured pace, but it has to, because that is how the story unfolds, with the protagonist moving down the road of his past reluctantly, and with trepidation and rightly so, because he has left skeletons behind. Many of them, it would appear.
Bill Murray was always my favorite SNL guy and he never disappoints, always taking whatever role he is given and doing it well, and doing it as only Bill Murray can. David Spade and Chevy Chase, eat your hearts out. Actually, just retire. But I digress.
The supporting cast deserves kudos as well. For once, I liked Sharon Stone in a movie. Francis Conroy does her Six Feet Under persona but manages to spin it a little differently, and Jessice Lange is mesmerizing as always. And Jeffrey Wright, as Winston is a perfect foil for the perpetually deadpan Murray.
But in fairness, I suspect that you have to be middle aged and male to really love this movie and all of its wisdom.
The formidable women, including a randy Sharon Stone happily lampooning her film persona and Tilda Swinton, tougher and more dangerous than all the others in her biker mom role, never really sway him from seeking his son or finding himself. Beyond discovering that you can't change the past of "an over-the-hill Don Juan," much less understand him, reflected in the depressing but authentic lack of communication with all but one of his wives, Murray may have discovered on his low-key picaresque a truer self than he had ever known before. He may be beaten up physically, he may be unable to close the case of his putative son, and he may have divorced himself from his millionaire persona as a computer whiz, but he remains a deeply calm, lonely wanderer in his effort to solve his case.
An amateur detective, neighbor Winston has the spirit and energy Don does not have, yet Don is deeper and more reflective. In fact he outstrips all of his former loves in kindness and caring in calm response to often explosive situations, for instance when Stone's daughter, Lolita, comes on to him only to find he is not available.
I complain American films are not sophisticated like Euro flicks, but Jarmusch has come close with this slow, laconic, and demanding indie. Hats off to Bill Murray for mixing minimalist with passionate this time aroundhis purpose and his change of character make his aging Hollywood star Bob from Lost in Translation just a dress rehearsal for this Oscar-worthy performance and film.
Perhaps Don's discovery is twofold: his potential to love others and himself. As Alexander Smith declared, "Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition."
Not knowing who sent the letter, he sets out to visit four possible candidates. After we've been invited to sneer at each of them in turn their absurd jobs, their empty lives he is back home, not knowing which one sent the letter, whether it was actually sent by a more recent girlfriend as a prank, or even whether a young man who's just arrived in town might be his son.
The film's message seems to be that unless you're, say, an independent film-maker named Jim Jarmusch, your so-called life is a pointless waste of which you ought to be embarrassed. This kind of cheap and lazy nihilism is just so boring, and the non-ending suggests that even Jarmusch couldn't be bothered with it any more. This film is designed to impress the kind of people who assume that any film without obvious interest or appeal must therefore be "arty". No, it's just tedious, flabby, self-indulgent and a waste of the talent of Bill Murray, who might as well have been replaced by a waxwork for most of it.
In a sadly now lost interview, Steve McQueen once said a man should feel as much as possible and show as little as possible. This unfashionable conception deserves deeper examination than our contemporary conventional wisdom is likely to give it, but it sums up Don Johnston literally to a 't'. However subtle, Bill Murray's humour is delightfully accessible. The deeper emotions of his more serious characters are harder to read. And his extraordinary, almost unique 'innerness' as an actor makes you work hard. In a superb performance in an excellent film, it is a fine judgement as to whether he might have given us just a little bit more colour and shading. We can see only too well why the women in his life kept leaving him but he makes us work a bit to see why they would have been with him in the first place. Murrray has cornered the market in men who can give but not take - Bob Harris in Lost In Translation and now Don Johnston in Broken Flowers. In a key piece of dialogue early on, as current partner Sherry (Julie Delpy), follows the other women in Don's life - out of it - he asks "what do you want Sherry?" She replies "what do you want Don?" And he's stumped. One feels Sherry would settle for any answer but not for none.
When he receives an unsigned letter from an ex-girlfriend, amateur sleuth neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) cajoles Don onto a reverse road trip of his life. The distinctive typed missive, addressed in red writing on a pink envelope, excites Winston's forensic aspirations and informs Don that his hitherto unmarried, unparented life actually created an unknown son 20 years ago, For Winston this is an intriguing mystery to be unravelled. For a reluctant Don it draws him into revisiting his former selves through the women he once either loved, or bedded; or (it is left unclear), perhaps both.
Broken Flowers, although like C&C, visually poetic in form and style, is more short story in content. So simple, pared down and explicitly existential in spirit, it brings Camus to mind. Pretentious thought that may sound, Jarmusch's poetic visual style has all the direct simplicity and philosophical resonance of Camus' prose. Asked for some 'fatherly' wisdom, Don apologetically replies, "The past is gone - I know that. And the future is still to come. So I guess there is just now." Outside the context of this elusive and allusive film, these remarks sound like a banal tautology. But there's the art. Jarmusch's art. His simple film 'language' resonates with feeling and, unusually for movies - ideas. Poetic. And if philosophical ideas seem a fanciful allusion for simple words, a remark of Wittgenstein's comes to mind when he observed that despite its apparent form, the expression "War is war" is no mere tautology.
As in C&C, but to a lesser extent, Broken Flowers has an episodic 'chapter'-like structure. Or more precisely, series of verses. And Jarmusch's cinematic style has a distinctive literary feel to it. His editing quietly 'punctuates' each scene and sequence precisely and without distraction. The full stops and commas of cuts and fades, provide a clear narrative structure, so that when the camera or the lens move, or the shot is held, it is precisely the contrast that makes it work so well. And like a good poet, Jarmusch likes to leave words, images and phrases hanging in the air. Unexplained. Unresolved. Jarmusch's great quality as a filmmaker is that his work is participative - a dialogue with his audience and their own experience. And like all good poems Broken Flowers will mean different things to different people even though its basic facts are not in doubt. In his art, the facts are the starting point, not the end. Want facts as conclusion, resolution - an answer? Try science. Or Hollywood.
Broken Flowers is, as the old saying has it, a mystery wrapped in an enigma: Winston's mystery - Don's enigma. Its ending is as satisfying, as it is unresolved. Murray doesn't so much show us Don's emotional life, still less act it, rather he lets small glimpses of it escape. His tears over the ex-girlfriend who died in a car crash; his sense of failure about Sherry; his warmth and understated friendship with Winston and his family. But poignantly, we see he wants to have had a son. Wants them to find each other. Murray superbly insinuates to us a man full of feeling who is bemused by his own inability to find a way to let it out. As in many of his characterisations - a genuinely tragi-comic figure.
I'm sorry, but all he does is sit there and look depressed - it's like watching paint peel - except peeling pain is more expressive.
Symbolism is present in the movie, and that can be nice when it is surrounded by some actual action, dialogue, plot, climax etc. - the basic elements that are missing in this movie.
What I can't believe people are not mentioning, is that Bill's ACTUAL SON, HOMER MURRAY, is the kid in the car at the end. I think we were suppose to recognize the genetics and GET that our hero is standing there in the cross roads of the street, stupefied, because Don Johnston recognizes the resemblance and now knows he's a father, and his life perhaps will never be the same - hence the crossroads. The lack of conversation about the use of his actual son in the movie, makes me think that almost nobody recognized the genetic resemblance and/or failed to read the credits and therefore missed that particular point.
Without knowing, that the boy is the character's,(and the actor's),son, the ending is pointless - so of course you leave it feeling let down.
Don't get me wrong - I LOVE quiet, well-observed movies. I love movies where there's no real violence. I love movies where weird characters wander in and out. I don't even mind movies without a real conclusion. I should have adored this movie. I came close to HATING this movie.
At least one person walked out of this movie after 20 minutes, never to return. A number of people in the audience at the end kind of went "What happened?" Makes you wonder why the critics have universally loved this movie, because there's NOTHING (and I mean NOTHING) there, beyond some cryptic performances by some of our better actresses.
I'm not the biggest Bill Murray fan, but I liked him in Groundhog Day and in Lost in Translation. With the right material, he's an interesting actor. This was categorically the wrong material. The problem is much more with the writing and directing than with the acting. But the acting just doesn't make the material any more interesting.
Here's the problem - the movie is, from start to finish, absolutely and completely illogical. There isn't a true moment anywhere in the movie.
Maybe it's a movie about a man who never really had a life and has a long nightmare about "what might have been." What if a woman I'd been involved with came back and told me I had a child I never expected to have?
First problem - Don Johnston (Bill Murray). People keep talking about him as a "Don Juan," and that point is further driven home by the fact that Johnston is watching a movie about Don Juan. But he completely fails to relate to people (men OR women) on any level. Granted, he is shown to be financially well-off. Money certainly can make many people attractive. But he was apparently involved with these women earlier in his life when he wasn't wealthy.
Second problem - Winston (Jeffrey Wright). At first, I thought Winston was Don's paid assistant. Turns out, he says he works three jobs, has aspirations to be a writer, is married and has five children. How in the world would he have the time to help Murray to the extent he does? I liked their friendship, and the way Winston was trying to get Don to get involved in his own life rather than be a passive observer. But does he simply never sleep?
Third problem - Lolita (Alexis Dziena). Like Jeffrey Wright, the problem is not with the performer, but with the way s/he is written. The kid is named Lolita. So how does she behave? Exactly like Lolita. It was like she walked out of the book/movie of that name. And, at one point, she just walks naked in front of Johnston. In real life, have you ever seen a 15-year-old walk naked in front of a 55 year old stranger? Now, there's a point later in the movie where Johnston dreams of that moment. It might have made a little more sense for him to have dreamed of her naked - that he was never "Don Juan" but might have wanted to be. True, a moment like that would have looked like it dropped out of American Beauty, but I think it would have made more sense.
No matter how much you enjoy Frances Conroy or Jessica Lange or Sharon Stone or Tilda Swinton (who's only very briefly in the movie and is completely unrecognizable), it isn't worth going to this movie to see them.
Eleven years ago, many of us found Four Weddings and a Funeral very enjoyable. That said, many of us were wildly frustrated by the character of Carrie (Andi MacDowell), who behaved quite illogically. Imagine a movie where none of the characters are quite so colorful and all of them act completely illogically. And there you have the problem with Broken Flowers.
Another problem is with the "road trip" itself. You see Bill Murray getting on planes and "flying around the country." At one point, his rental car seems to have a Colorado license plate. It's obvious from the scenery that he never really leaves the Northeast. It turns out to have been completely filmed in upstate New York and New Jersey. No surprise there.
So maybe the whole movie is just one man's "fantasy trip." If that's the case, the movie was just impossibly dull, dull, dull.
Laurie Mann Movie Corner http://www.dpsinfo.com/movies
It's sad that the whole film was strongly pushing for continuation of the plot, yet nothing ever gets resolved. In the end Murray has no idea who his son is. There are so many different possibilities. I personally wanted an ending like Sideways. An ending where you know who it is, but there's absolutely no interaction between them, they just know.
But no, in the end Murray is exactly the same. Nothing happened...literally. People can say, "Nothing needs to happen". That's fine with me, if that's what you truly like to watch, but personally I'd rather not watch a film with literally no point, un-interesting characters, no chemistry at all and an excuse for unintelligent people to enjoy something that isn't a romantic comedy. Jarmusch will always refuse to have anything actually happen in his films...it's sad...maybe he's depressed?
Oh and before I forget...Jarmusch wrote the script in two and a half weeks. I'm sorry to say...it shows. The only films I can think of that were written that quickly and pulled it off were, Do the Right Thing and Reservoir Dogs. Do the Right Thing had an amazing message and characters you actually care about and Reservoir Dogs was a great character study with a REAL ending.
I do want to thank Jim Jarmusch though. I'm writing my fourth screenplay right now and I got so bored in the theater that I actually figured out how to end it. I got some good thinking time. A dark place, nothing going on, good combination for thinking. Bad combination for watching a film that's supposed to be very good.
If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you should stop reading here.
At the center of the story is Don Johnston, whose name seems to provoke in most people a recognition by associating it to the actor, Don Johnson. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Don is a taciturn man, who when we meet him is being dumped by his last girlfriend.
Don Johnston, with his deadpan demeanor, appears to be a man that has gone through life on auto pilot. In fact, when he receives the letter that will, in a way, change his life, he doesn't even react. His solution to the problem is to show this letter to his next door neighbor, Winston. Little does Don knows, but Winston maps out a plan to get him involved in the solution of the mystery he is presented. We accompany Don in a trip of discovery to reacquaint himself with former lovers who might have been instrumental in sending the pink letter.
Thus we meet Laura, the closet organizer, a widow now, living with a precocious daughter, Lolita, who seems to have jumped from the Nabokov's book, in all her precociousness. Then, there is Dora, the real estate woman who lives in a development in which all the houses look alike. We meet Carmen, the pet communicator, a sort of animal analyst who has turned her love interest another way. Finally, we are given a glimpse of Penny, who couldn't care less to see Don one more time.
The opening sequence that sets the story in motion is nothing but perfection. We watch the fateful letter at the beginning when it's being dropped in the mail box right up to its delivery through Don's mail slot.
Jim Jarmusch, and his amazing cast have done wonders with this film. Bill Murray is sensational as the jaded Don Johnston. Once again, this actor clearly shows he is at the top of the game. Jeffrey Wright, one of the best young actors working in films and in the theater these days, makes a valuable contribution as Winston. The women in Don's life are fantastic. Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Julie Delpy, Tilda Swinton, and Jessica Lange are seen at their best. Finally, two excellent turns by Alexis Dziena as Lolita and Chloe Sevigny as an assistant to Carmen.
Mr. Jarmusch has created a film that says a lot about how modern relationships are being practiced these days.
The reason one might consider Broken Flowers as Jarmusch's most 'mainstream' film is because it is filmed a little more like one, very steady camera-work, and seeming a little more like a Hollywood type film with the cast (Sharon Stone, Francis Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Jeffrey Wright among others). And the story seems like something one might find in a conventional romantic comedy- Murray plays Don Johnston (not Johnson, as a running joke in the film), a fading Don Juan type who is very well off but also rather isolated with himself. Around the same time his current girlfriend leaves him, he finds a mysterious pink colored letter in a pink envelope. Wright, playing an amusing neighbor of Don's, sets him up to go on a search to find the long lost son the letter alludes to. He reluctantly goes on the search.
What is interesting about a filmmaker like Jarmusch, with only a few others I can think of, is that his pace and style and way the film unfolds, my heartbeat never goes too fast or too slow with the rhythm, and it stays consistent. When the climax to the film comes, it's more contemplative than exciting. As Don visits the four women, who each give him something different to offer (if not answering his questions for the 'mystery'), the comedy kicks in, but as with the scenes with Wright's character Winston, it's not often 'laugh-out loud' funny, but the wit is there. Some of it is surprising (the daughter character, Lolita, brings a big laugh), and just strange (Lange's job as an 'animal communicator'), but it's often not so much about hitting for big punches as for more realistic ones. We get long (some might say too long) breaks as Don drives in his car, and then something more comes along. For me, at least, it was rather compelling in a minimalist way, which is what Jarmusch is a master of.
Some have said that the ending was unfulfilled, that it didn't serve a purpose and left the film with unanswered questions. I found the ending to really be even more fulfilling, perhaps on an existential or some kind of unspeakable level, than something that would typically be cooked up in Hollywood. As Murray stand in the street, the camera moving around him and stopping on him, it had me thinking and finally feeling some emotional attachment to Don. Early in the film, he's almost too subdued, and has an upper-middle class status that brings a detachment like with a lead in an Antonioni film. He says he's content with being on his own doing whatever, but by the end he has come full circle. Murray plays these last couple of scenes wonderfully, bringing one to see that the film is not about the usual solving of a mystery of 'who is my son'.
It's about searching, and finding a connectedness to people. This, again, may sound off-putting to people who just want to be simply entertained, and it may be boring &/or pretentious to the core mainstream fans of Murray. But his performance, and Jarmusch's direction, makes its best way in a realm of its own, taking a simple premise and giving it an original take, and substance, and a specific rhythm. In other words, Jarmusch fans need not be frightened that it looks less 'artsy' than a film like Dead Man or Mystery Train, and for those who loved Murray's work in Lost in Translation will find a similar wavelength to cling to.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around lifelong bachelor Don Johnston, the subject of too many "Miami Vice" jokes, who opens a letter, typewritten on pink stationery, informing him that he has a 19-year-old son who may soon show up on his doorstep. The letter is unsigned, which tweaks the interest of Don's best friend and next-door neighbor Winston, an enthusiastic and persistent amateur sleuth. It is Winston who tracks down Don's ex-girlfriends across the country and organizes a trip for Don to meet and subtly ask each one a series of questions that may lead him to conclude who is the mother who penned the letter.
The subsequent film really provides mini-showcases for four fine veteran actresses (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton), who pierce through the hearts of their characters with minimum fuss. Don pretty much remains a cipher throughout these encounters, as he gleans just enough information to tell him what he needs to know. He first meets up with Laura, a recent widow with an exhibitionist adolescent daughter named appropriately Lolita. Looking as beautiful as ever, Stone underplays her white trash role with surprising subtlety, even as she vividly describes her race car husband's fiery death and chats about her calling as a closet organizer.
Next on Don's list is Dora, an uptight real estate agent married to a fellow glad-hand agent, who seems to be bubbling just below the surface about Don's sudden appearance. Conroy, ideally cast in a controlling variation of her Ruth Fisher character on "Six Feet Under", gives a nuanced performance of a woman cracking slowly within the walls of a perfect, pre-fab home. The next stop is at the office of renowned "animal communicator" Carmen, an edgy professional who has apparently abandoned men for animals and a misogynistic receptionist (played with an ideal sense of passive malice by Chloë Sevigny). Lange plays Carmen in sharp, unapologetic detail, conveying the bitterness she holds toward the type of man Don represents to her.
The last encounter is with an even more embittered biker chick named Penny, played with seething force by an almost completely unrecognizable Swinton, who is in turn, defended by a couple of hyper-sensitive, mullet-head bikers. What happens from all these episodes toward its intriguing conclusion will not satisfy those looking for closure, but Jarmusch provides enough emotional baggage for Don to recognize what his journey means to him and to us.
Murray is his typical deadpan self here, but he still maintains that peculiar sense of goodwill he has without which the character would have been simply insufferable. With a Jamaican accent, Jeffrey Wright is wryly comical as Winston even as his curiosity gets the best of him. Also worth mentioning are Pell James' sweet turn as a sympathetic flower shop clerk and Mulatu Astatke's jazzy musical score. Well worth watching for those who like to come to their own interpretations when observing the lives presented by Jarmusch and their personal histories of which we can only speculate.
Basically, this film seemed written for Murray's effortlessness acting style. Yet Murray's character is played at first with almost totally non-vulnerability you want him to open up. But all the time you see glimmers of him doing just that and then you even appreciate his stuck-ness.
All the other actors are wonderful as well. I have seen Sharon Stone's acting as someone trying to hard, but people, she was just crazy and alive in her role in this film. She changed my mind. Jessica Lange's performance is just perfect. What a woman. All in all I must give this film 2 thumbs up and my big toes are saluting it as well. Funny, thoughtful and very entertaining. Bravo.
We are reminded in every possible way that this man is a "Don Juan" and yet NOTHING in the story or character development suggests how someone so broken, so numb, so completely uninterested in life or people, could be that sort of man. We have no idea how or why he has become so broken, and so ultimately don't much care that he is. No light is shed on this at any point - the movie is just one long dip into a stagnant pool of listless nothingness.
I can only imagine that the transitions between scenes of simply fading to black again and again and again, and the endless travel footage (Don in plane, Don in car, Don reading map, Don sleeping in hotel) were one of three things: lack of imagination, self-indulgence or laziness. I can think of no other reasons as this just adds to the stultifying feel of the movie. The parallel between the film's pace and Don's life seems like an amateurish parlor trick to fool the audience into thinking that the mundane is meaningful - not in this movie! Here, the mundane is just plain old boring. All the symbolism is lurid in its obviousness (ex: Don watching the old/original "Don Juan" movie on TV as his life unravels) while the character/story development is so subtle as to be non-existent.
I could not imagine a more uninteresting use of major acting talent (not just Bill Murray, but the whole cast). In so many instances, the Don Juan theme seems a license for the director to show off the physical attributes of younger women - how else can naked Lolita possibly be justified in this story. Oddly, it doesn't seem to be Bill Murray's Don himself who is interested in these women, making the display of skin even more gratuitous.
I'm guessing the lack of resolution at the end was supposed to be indicative of Don's ambivalence about life's direction, but it just looked/felt like the scriptwriter had run out of ideas and so ended the movie. We were quite unsure that the movie had actually ended, and I felt so cheated as I left my seat. $9 and 2 hours of my time spent with characters I didn't get to know or like, and a story that went nowhere in the worst way - UGH!
If this had in fact been a student film, any good professor would have suggested that Jarmusch trim the self-conscious "subtlety" and develop a story worth watching.
"Broken flowers" won the 2005 Cannes Grand Prix award, which should not be a surprise as Jim Jarmusch has always been loved by the French.
The title however I connect immediately with the lyrics in one of my most favourite Gilbert and Sullivan numbers, in Trial by Jury:
"Comes the broken flower
Comes the cheated maid
Though the tempest lower
Rain and cloud will fade."
This connection is not entirely irrelevant, if we look at some more lyrics in this G&S's shortest operetta, the defendant's plead to the judge on his reason for deserting the young lady, the plaintiff:
"One cannot eat breakfast all day,
Nor is it the act of a sinner,
When breakfast is taken away,
To turn his attention to dinner.
And it's not in the range of belief,
To look upon him as a glutton,
Who, when he is tired of beef,
Determines to tackle the mutton."
This is exactly the plight of Don Johnston (Bill Murray) in the movie, albeit it examines the consequences rather than the process of Don Juan-ism. But while G&S strives on exaggeration, Jarmusch is all minimalism.
This episodic film starts with Sherry (Julia Delpy) walking out on Don, refusing to be his "mistress" playing second fiddle to the remote control of his plasma screen. An anonymous letter in a pink envelop announcing an upcoming visit from a hitherto unknown 19-year-old son and well-intentioned pressure from neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) send Don on a quest to look for the mysterious mother from among five of his old girlfriends. Equipped with a bouquet of pink flowers (a fitting motif) on every call, Don starts out hopeful, but soon finds that the experience is one continuous downhill slide.
Starting out pleasantly enough, the encounter with widowed Laura (Sharon Stone) ends in one night spent with her, presumably for old time's sake. She even asks him to come back whenever he likes, but her daughter who likes to walk around the house with nothing on, appropriately named Lolita, is somewhat disturbing. The flowers are well received.
Next come Dora (Frances Conroy) and her husband Ron, affluent real estate agents, who invite him to stay for dinner. While the meal is friendly enough, the conversation is quite awkward, not exactly what Don would consider a happy reunion with Dora. The flowers are received but embarrassingly placed under a painting which they resemble.
"Animal communicator" (whatever that means) Carmen (Jessica Lange) is not unhappy to see Don but does not have much time for him, and it's plain to see that there is something between her and the attractive assistant (Chloe Sevigny if you've seen her in "Shattered Glass" and "Melinda and Melinda" you would likely be watching out for her other movies). The flowers are returned to Don by this assistant (we never learn her name) at his car before he drives away.
High strung Penny (Tilda Swinton) greets Don with obscenity, just keeps asking what he wants and flies off the handle at his mention of the word "son". The end result is his getting a black and bloody eye from one of the rough characters she stays with. The flowers become a pile of garbage.
The fifth ex-girl friend receives her flowers passively, as they are placed on her gravestone. But the movie does not end there. There is more.
It should be quite apparent by the middle of the movie, if not earlier, that the "mystery" is not the point. What we see is sketches of Don's re-encounter with these women with whom he once shared intimacy, and it is a fascinating mental exercise to reconstruct those relationships based on what we see.
This movie is entirely Murray's show, and I can't think of anyone who can make people laugh so much by doing so little. This actor is phenomenal. Don't miss the movie.
The misguided applause Bill Murray received for "Lost in Translation" has obviously convinced him (and his director) that kudos is to be found in the concealed musings of an apathetic, deadpan character; one that we can neither love nor bother hating. Until I have some proof that he has returned to his earlier ("Groundhog Day") form, or at least that he is breathing, I won't be seeing any more Bill Murray pictures.
And this film is a SHOCKING waste of Swinton, Jeffrey Wright, Frances Conroy, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange and Julie Delpy.