Bill Murray continues his recent trend of effective minimalist performances as an aging Don Juan prompted to visit a few former flames in 'Broken Flowers,' the latest from Jim Jarmusch.Soon after his latest fling (Julie Delpy) departs, Don Johnston (Murray) receives an anonymous pink letter, declaring that he had fathered a son years earlier and that said child may be looking for him. Encouraged by his Ethiopian neighbor/amateur detective Winston (Jeffrey Wright), Don proceeds to locate each of the five women who may have sent him the letter.
Murray manages to keep his role relatively low-key, even compared to his roles in Lost in Translation and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. His deadpan delivery and subtle nuances become the source for the majority of the filmís humor and heart. However, every actress manages to hold her own opposite Murray. From Sharon Stone as a NASCAR widow with a teenage daughter deservedly named Lolita, to a nearly unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, all of them deliver terrific performances with each individual role. Frances Conroy appears as a stiff realtor who, with her fellow realtor and husband (Christopher McDonald), is especially concerned about water becoming more valuable than oil or gold.
The filmís strongest understatement occurs when Don visits Carmen (Jessica Lange), a self-proclaimed animal communicator. With a few select moments, the brief appearance of Carmenís receptionist (Chloe Sevigny) speaks volumes with the smallest amount of dialogue. Wright, a relentlessly appealing character actor, makes the outgoing Winston a worthy foil to Murrayís dull Don. It is Winston himself who takes the liberty of planning Donís excursion, even providing him with a custom CD to listen to in whichever rental car he is currently occupying (ďIím a stalker in a Taurus,Ē Don groans over the phone).
Writer/director Jarmusch keeps matters relatively low-key on his end as well. As Donís journey progresses, each reunion is reduced in both length and glee. A soundtrack dominated by recurring Ethiopian jazz numbers seems appropriately eccentric for the proceedings. The film takes its time between scenes, and while a slow pace can be satisfying, there are several points that border on the lethargic.By the end, Don (and the audience) arrives at the inevitable conclusion. However, in both cases, itís not so much about the destination as it is the journey, and 'Broken Flowers' is a strangely satisfying journey in that manner. Itís certainly better than a swig of oil.