Reviews

Broken Flowers

4

It’s Bill Murray’s good fortune that, relatively late in life, with his days as a Hollywood cash-cow far behind him, he’s been championed by a series of directors who have exploited his crumpled charisma and minimalist underplaying to brilliant effect. First Wes Anderson gifted him the role of a lifetime in Rushmore and then gave him another in The Life Aquatic. Then we had Sofia Coppola, who saw in Murray a pathos ideal for Lost In Translation’s over-the-hill romantic. And now Jim Jarmusch hands him a role that fits his deadpan drollness so snugly you can’t imagine any other actor doing it justice.

Broken Flowers is actually Murray and Jarmusch’s second collaboration; the actor had previously popped up in a Coffee & Cigarettes segment, and his latest movie has a similarly episodic quality. Where Flowers improves on Cigarettes is that the isolated parts have a cumulative effect, deepening our appreciation of its unlikely Don Juan and his impassive response to the world.

Murray may be the star, but the star turns are supplied by the actresses playing his old flames. At first glance it’s stretching credibility that Don would have much in common with Sharon Stone’s blowsy widow, Frances Conroy’s frosty estate agent, Jessica Lange’s lesbian hippy and Tilda Swinton’s trailer-trash vamp. But, just as 8 1/2’s females reflected differing aspects of Marcello Mastroianni’s personality, so Don’s blanks are filled by their reactions to him. The only shame is how little time they’re given to shine, with Swinton being particularly ill-served.

Subtle, elegant and deliciously witty, Broken Flowers slightly suffers from a reluctance to resolve its central mystery – as enjoyable as the journey is, you can’t help thinking Don winds up in much the same place he was at the beginning. Or does he? The answer lies in Murray’s soulful, doleful features, which manage to be both endlessly expressive and inscrutable.

Verdict:

A wry, beautifully understated road movie from a writer-director perfectly in tune with Bill Murray's melancholy, deadpan style.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • AnneFay

      Nov 17th 2008, 10:03

      2

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    • FBEXanthopoul

      Jan 21st 2012, 16:34

      4

      www.unsungfilms.com, by Theo Alexander, Jim Jarmusch and Bill Murray – the poet of independent meets the king of cool, and what an intriguing title… Broken Flowers, does it mean something other than something that doesn’t mean anything? The poster was right there, and I was curious. This was bound to be something we had not seen before, it had to be. For years, so much of the same recycled, throwaway material had passed itself off as something worth the ninety minutes of time we’ve all given generously too many times in our lives. I stuck it on, ready to experience something good, a film that maybe, perhaps had something to say. What I found in the end, was a film with a great deal more than just something to say. To start with, it had this pace that I’d rarely seen before. It’s hard to explain but it moved at the right speed. It moved slowly and effortlessly, while each scene progressed to the next with a lazy fadeout. It opens in some American suburb with the delivery of an anonymous letter – the letter which holds the entire premise of the film. The letter is delivered while Bill Murray sits in a large apartment looking bleak. At this point it is hard to say why he looks bleak, but one assumes that it is because his girlfriend is packing her things and moving out. He stares into the void, his sullen eyes spanning the room with boredom. Bill Murray acts bored as hell – an absent kind of presence that lasts through the whole film. He watches as his girlfriend climbs into a taxi, with a blank and pale stare. He then opens the mysterious letter that informs him of the existence of his eighteen year-old son, which he reads calmly and without care. Amusingly, he is almost hindered by this knowledge. This attitude seems to be the result of too many years and not much to say. He is presented as a sort of late middle-aged Don Juan, a man who is now unsatisfied with his current state, but too unmotivated not to be content – if I’m making sense. And this was the base of the whole thing – a strangely undramatic film with a lot of drama. ‘Broken Flowers’ was, in a way, exactly what I was looking for. The film revolves around his cross-country journey to find the woman with whom he had this child. A journey without an atom of will and with a complete lack of desire, but a journey nonetheless. In the protagonist’s heart of hearts, there is, at the very least, a hidden hope somewhere in the darkest depths of his soul that his quest will not lead to complete disaster. Throughout everything, he encounters four ex-lovers, all of which he deems the most likely to have had his son – a series of peculiar and ever-worsening encounters with unexpected results. ‘Broken Flowers’ is a humorous, discreetly dark and poetic piece of cinema from director Jim Jarmusch. The film plays on its minimalism and subtleties, while the viewer is taken into a place of dead-beat quirks and the great and open road to nothingness. As the story unfolds, it manages to retain every ounce of artistic value, while provoking a great deal of thought along the way. Theo Alexander at www.unsungfilms.com

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