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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.58%
Worth A Look39.53%
Average: 17.44%
Pretty Bad: 5.81%
Total Crap: 11.63%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings

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Broken Flowers
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by EricDSnider

"Careful, Bill. One more and you'll become a Bill Murray impersonator."
4 stars

After his taciturn performances in "Lost in Translation" and "The Life Aquatic," Bill Murray may now have reached the point where he is simply imitating himself. In "Broken Flowers," the new film from indie writer/director Jim Jarmusch, Murray does his thing -- the silences, the blank face that occasionally dissolves into a subtle expression of some kind, the seeming befuddlement and weariness at the lot life has cast him -- but he does it to not nearly as great effect as in the just-mentioned films. With a minimalist approach, you run the risk of becoming so minimal as to be non-existent, you know.

That isn't to say I didn't like the film, because I mostly did. It has a straightforward, cleanly structured story and a few solid laughs amid the existential agonizing. But Murray and the other actors are often filmed giving looks that are clearly meant to be meaningful, yet I often have no idea what that meaning is.

OK, we're looking at someone, and she's making a face, and that face means ... surprise? Compassion? Irritation? Plenty of time to figure it out, because the camera has been lingering for 15 seconds now, and we're not being interrupted by dialogue ... but what IS that face?

Murray's better at it than his co-stars, that much is certain. He plays Don Johnston, a well-off man who made his fortune in computers yet doesn't own one, who lives alone and putters around his tastefully decorated, dimly lit house in an expensive-looking track suit. He was a notorious Lothario back in the day, and still gets comparisons to Don Juan from his neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright). Winston is happily married with many children and seems to think, however subtly and cheerfully, that Don needs to grow up.

Don's latest girlfriend, Sherry (Julie Delpy), would agree. She leaves him as the film begins, citing the usual film-cliché reasons of You'll Never Change and Why Can't You Just Settle Down? "I'm like your mistress, except you're not even married," she says. Don doesn't try very hard to stop her from leaving.

He then receives a letter with no signature and no return address. It purports to be from a former lover who tells him he has a 19-year-old son who may be trying to find him now. Winston, an amateur sleuth, loves the mystery. Extracting from Don the list of possible suspects -- women he was intimate with 20 years ago -- he assembles an itinerary of flights, rental cars and maps so that Don can visit each woman, one by one, and find the mother of his son, this son he never knew he had. Don is reluctant, but Don is also governed by inertia. Once Winston drives him to the airport, the path of least resistance is to simply take the trip. So he does.

There are four women on his list. Each lives in a different unnamed city, far enough apart to require an airplane trip each time, though Jarmusch has intentionally left each location vague and faceless. With each old flame he encounters, Don gets a less-friendly reception. NASCAR widow Laura (Sharon Stone) is happy to see him; tamped-down real estate agent Dora (Frances Conroy) is baffled but not unhappy; pet psychic Carmen (Jessica Lange) is cordial but unhospitable; and he leaves the home of white-trash Penny (Tilda Swinton) with a black eye.

Each woman gets a scene or two, a vignette of reminiscences and general conversation, and Don sees four different lives that would now be unrecognizable if he had stayed in the picture 20 years ago. Should he have settled down with one of these women? Is one of them the mother of this alleged son?

Don never asks any of the women, "Did you send me a letter?" Instead, he simply looks for clues. I find this highly improbable. Why travel all that distance just to beat around the bush? Why not come out and ask the question?

Now, when you point out an apparent flaw this basic in a movie like "Stealth," people laugh and say, "Yeah, what a dumb movie." But when you mention something that seems so illogical in a Jim Jarmusch movie, you are accused of having missed the point.

In the case of "Broken Flowers," the point would, in fact, be hard to miss. It's about a man with a mostly meaningless life who is now, at this late stage, searching for meaning. Don has begun to realize he needs to DO something, to stop loving 'em and leaving 'em and to start making his life worthwhile. The point of the film is not in question, and Jarmusch and Murray execute it well enough, as far as it goes.

But the whole thing ultimately leaves me wanting. The resolution is singularly unsatisfying, and what's worse, I can see it coming, and that it's going to be unsatisfying, a mile away. And though Murray can say a lot with a well-timed reaction or a judicially employed shy smile, there are times when more is called for. I note one instance when he is visiting the grave of a former lover and tears begin to well up in his eyes. It is about to be a very emotional moment for both the character and the audience, and then Jarmusch cuts away. Why, in a film clearly meant to engage us emotionally, prevent us from getting there?

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originally posted: 08/05/05 16:09:46
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User Comments

1/17/08 Bitchflaps Glacial and sedate. Jarmusch once again proves to be a mere shadow of his former talents. 2 stars
1/03/08 Cinesnob Interesting film--but Bill Murray as a great lover? Come on! 3 stars
6/01/07 ES There's really nothing to this movie, it's completely forgettable and devoid of interest 2 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold Not as mindblowing as Lost in Translation and Man Who Knew Too Little, but still a great. 5 stars
12/21/06 David Pollastrini The Lolita chick was hot! 3 stars
9/08/06 Thomas Semesky I expected better. 3 stars
8/23/06 Larry Bryant Murray is outstanding, as usual, and loved the supporting cast (although most only came)oI. 4 stars
7/12/06 Marty i really liked Lost in Translation but this one was eh 3 stars
5/30/06 Marce Interesting... 4 stars
5/10/06 millersxing Jeffrey Wright is the best of a stellar ensemble . Jarmusch provokes viewer reflection. 4 stars
4/04/06 Sammie Read great movie! 5 stars
3/21/06 Jen Dull; unfinished; utterly and completely boring. What a waste. 1 stars
3/07/06 Annie G Another movie where Bill Murray seems catatonic ... is that the only way he can act now? 3 stars
2/20/06 Indrid Cold Leads to a satisfyingly ambiguous and meloncholy ending, but pretty darn boring throughout. 3 stars
1/18/06 Elza Hudson BORING, DREADFUL, CRAP! 1 stars
1/18/06 greensweater yawnfest - DVD seemed to be missing a scene at the end :) 2 stars
1/17/06 Sam Boring beyond BELIEF! Bill, try making a facial expression, or are you on Quaaludes? 1 stars
1/15/06 Perry Mason Murray is awesome. All the actresses are awesome. The ending rocks. Yeah it's awesome. 5 stars
11/22/05 Kurtis J. Beard Very good film. Murray is a revalation. 4 stars
10/24/05 Stan Arnold One of the worst films I've ever seen 1 stars
10/21/05 Morten damn why dont they warn people about the ending, (the ending makes the movie worthless) 1 stars
9/07/05 Betty Davis I was most disappointed...the naked teenager was very distasteful. Also, no real ending. 1 stars
8/30/05 lillian needed more emotion incertain areaa 4 stars
8/28/05 jcjs ok, nothing compared to 'lost in translation'...dead pan Murray, slow 'pastizing' 4 stars
8/28/05 malcolm insightful. murray has come a long way. a boneheaded mission though. 3 stars
8/28/05 Caiphn Not for everyone. 3 stars
8/27/05 Maalstrom Interesting story that doesn't finish but the movie is all about character. Rather Moving. 4 stars
8/26/05 Likaswisi Jean Tender, intellectual and funny. Great performances- Wright steals the show. 4 stars
8/25/05 Mike If the main character doesn't care about his past, why should we? A total farce. 1 stars
8/23/05 Kathy So bad that when it was over strangers talked to each other about how bad it was. 1 stars
8/21/05 Don Phillips 30 minutes of shots of Murray driving a car or sitting on a plane. Rest is no good! 1 stars
8/17/05 Kathy Watson Waste of 1 hr 45 min...the audience was very disappointed!! 2 stars
8/16/05 Jim The Movie Freak a middle-aged version of High Fidelity with a perfect ending. Tad overrated still great! 4 stars
8/13/05 Mark Not a work of art, but a decent entertainment 3 stars
8/12/05 bonnie mcfadden come on! I was thinking about my auction on eBay half the time! 2 stars
8/03/05 Elitza Premiered in TC, MI--great flick! 5 stars
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  05-Aug-2005 (R)
  DVD: 03-Jan-2006



Directed by
  Jim Jarmusch

Written by
  Jim Jarmusch

  Bill Murray
  Jeffrey Wright
  Frances Conroy
  Sharon Stone
  Jessica Lange
  Tilda Swinton

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