Broken Flowers

I caught the preview of Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers a few days back, and thought what with the end of a year, it was a good movie to watch in the spirit of reflecting back. Anyway, here's my review (taken, as always, from my reviews site). Oh, and I should point out the soundtrack is excellent.

Broken Flowers

In Broken Flowers, Bill Murray plays aging lothario Don Johnston, who, on the day he's dumped by current live-in girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy), also receives a mysterious unsigned letter informing him that he might have fathered a son years ago. This sparks, with the urging of his wannabe-detective neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright), a cross-country trip to visit the women in his past. Don may be a "Don Juan" to Winston, with his software fortune and his material wealth from his software entrepreneurship past, but, as Sherry points out, his behaviour can grow old: "I'm like your mistress, except you're not even married".

Using an old-footage tint that adds to the impression of visiting old pasts, Jarmusch sets the film in what seems like the parts of America oft-ignored in films - new developments, old fading houses, nondescript airports and hotels - and the film is as much a series of vignettes on the effects of time and about these women's confrontations with their past selves as it is an examination of Don's relationships with women. So we see Laura (Sharon Stone), who married a race car driver who died in a racing accident and now lives with her outrageous daughter Lolita; Dora (Frances Conroy), the former hippie turned real estate agent; and Carmen (Jessica Lange), the lawyer turned 'animal communicator'. For some there is real joy in meeting this blast from the past - Laura and Don end up in bed together - for others, Don's arrival is either something to be quickly dismissed (as Carmen does), or dredges up unspecified hurt, as happens to Penny (Tilda Swinton).

Every scene between Don and a woman in Broken Flowers carries a sexual charge, even those involving secondary characters, such as Carmen's secretary (played by Chloe Sevigny, and the camera lingers knowingly on her thighs) or a florist (Pell James) from who he buys yet another bouquet of the pink flowers that Winston advises him to bring along to every attempted reunion. And through that charge we can see why Don's arrival can be both disarming and disquieting: he himself, still clearly unsettled, brings in the unsettling force of sex and libido and romance into worlds. But the women he revisits often taken pains to keep that intrusion from the past a blip, packing Don off in ways both friendly and furious.

As might be expected, Murray plays the world-weary Don to laconic perfection - this is a man who has rejected all connection to the outside world (as Winston points out, he's a software entrepreneur who doesn't even keep a computer in his house), and spends his nights lying catatonic on his couch. It's a variant of his Lost in Translation role, except this time his connection to the world is restored not by a woman but by meeting a boy who he thinks could be his kid. Murray has always been a master of economic movement, and here in Broken Flowers, Jarmusch's still camera and the clear emotion of the women add to the deadpan humour. More than that, Jarmusch evokes, through the vignette format, that blend of wistfulness and ennui of seeing wisps of our past and wondering whether the little items we see (Don's search for pink items in his former lovers' homes, to match the pinkness of the unsigned letter, attunes our eyes towards spotting details) are clues that could or could not add up to something.

In the end, there are hints that Don has been shaken out of his catatonia, but we as an audience are left with questions for ourselves: does that add up to anything? And how much does wanting to answer that question say about how much we want resolution in the films that we watch, instead of savouring the moments that we do see?


yellowhandman said…
This sounds great! Lost In Translation really hit a spot for me, and I can see how this role would suit Bill Murray perfectly.

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