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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Another quirky Jarmusch special."
5 stars

Does it truly matter who the mother of Bill Murray’s son is in "Broken Flowers"? I wonder. It is, as they say, the journey, not the destination.

In this deadpan comedy-drama, the second of three films Murray has made (to date) with writer-director Jim Jarmusch, Murray plays Don Johnston, who receives an enigmatic, unsigned letter from an old flame who claims she has had his son. Don, who has just watched his latest relationship with girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy) circle the drain, is dyspeptic about this note. His next-door neighbor and friend, the Ethopian transplant Winston (Jeffrey Wright), is a crime-novel buff and excitedly latches onto the mystery aspect. Winston decides that Don must go visit four of his exes and find out about his son. He draws up an itinerary for Don, advises him on which clues to watch for (typewriter, pink things), and sends him on his unmerry way.

Most of Broken Flowers is a series of duets between Murray and various women; he even has a nice little moment with one of Winston’s little daughters. Jarmusch’s script is maybe a bit heavy-handed about establishing the man’s Don Juan past, right down to his name and the movie he watches on TV, although this might be a wry joke on Jarmusch’s part. There are a few more hints and signs in the movie, suggesting that this loner is part of a larger pattern. Again and again, Don finds himself in ghastly mortifying situations, forced into awkward connection and into life. The four estranged women, who all have more nervous energy than Don, represent various social classes as well as various roles of American womanhood — the widow (Sharon Stone), the professional woman (Frances Conroy), the mystic (Jessica Lange), the outcast (Tilda Swinton).

Don’s former relations to any of these women are as mysterious as anything else in the movie; Jarmusch gives us only tiny indications of what they saw in Don, or vice versa. Each of the women seems to have a chaotic inner life agitated by Don’s presence. Sharon Stone’s widow (her husband was a race-car driver) looks upon Don with the most kindness, even taking him to bed; but her daughter, fittingly named Lolita, seems to share her mother’s erotic restlessness. We can see that, past a certain point, Don’s inability to commit drove him away from the women, or them from him. He may realize he’ll be alone forever unless he can find his son, if indeed he actually has one out there somewhere.

Murray gives one of his late-period micro-performances, showing us, as usual, that what was behind his early-period jaded-hipster shtick was a melancholy and fearful man — a child, really. Murray has a gravitas in these roles that’s oddly, and often amusingly, disputed by his rather light and unresonant voice. No matter how deep his scars run in his 21st-century funny-sad/sad-funny characters, he still sounds like the same guy from Meatballs. So he seems to combine the wisdom of an elder — and he has aged to look like one — with the insecurity of youth. The result, in movies like this or Lost in Translation, is a split Bill Murray, the one in our memories versus the one we see before us, and most of the women in Broken Flowers see a split Don. They see an older Don who is still, in the ways that matter, the younger Don who saddened or enraged them.

Jarmusch burrows beneath his surface affectlessness, which he’s usually done, really; his movies are more emotional than they appear, but seem almost embarrassed to express emotion in the standard false Hollywood manner. With the great cinematographer Frederick Elmes, Jarmusch makes America beautiful but not sterile. The key to the movie and to Don Johnston might be his only friend Winston, who, in opposition to the grey and pale Don, is black and passionate and fecund (three jobs and five kids). Generally, Jarmusch sets his protagonists in contrast with someone who points towards a more soulful way of being — think of William Blake and Nobody in Dead Man, or the titular hero of Ghost Dog and the ice-cream-truck driver.

Did Don ever want a family, a wife, a son? We’re not sure at the end, nor is he, but as he watches two candidates for the position of son disappear into the horizon, he seems to have grown just to the point where he realizes what’s missing.

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originally posted: 12/29/15 11:33:28
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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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