Broken Flowers (2005) ****1/2
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Plot: After another in a lifelong string of breakups with interesting women, independently wealthy Don Johnson (Bill Murray) receives a cryptic, anonymous pink letter saying that he has a 19 year-old son who might be looking for him. With the encouragement of his mystery loving neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), Don sets on a journey to surprise four different women that he was with two decades. One woman (Sharon Stone) with an oversexed daughter is happy to see him, while another (Francis Conroy) would prefer that he never reentered her life. Don then receives some unwelcomed psychoanalysis from the third woman (Jessica Lange) who is now a successful animal communicator (watch the film to learn what this is), and finally, he dons a black eye leaving the house of the fourth woman (Tilda Swinton), a biker chick. Winston suggests that he should look for clues when visiting each woman—most notably, to see if any show indication of liking the color pink to match the letter. Frustratingly, all four own pink things and none give Don a straight answer about a possible son. He returns home feeling dejected and confused--that is until he encounters a young drifter outside of a coffee shop who may or may not be his answer.
Review: My favorite guest starring voice-over on The Simpsons has to be Jim Jarmusch, director of Broken Flowers. The episode involves Lisa entering a biting documentary about her dysfunctional family ala Capturing the Friedmans into the Sundance Film Festival. It’s here that Jim Jarmusch voices a cartoon version of himself guiding Lisa to understand the rules and ethics involved in festival films. I think it’s absolutely admirable that the show decided to go all out and pick the right guy for this role even though most viewers probably know nothing about Jim Jarmusch nor his films.
When Chazz recommended Broken Flowers to me, I was thrilled that I’d finally be able to say that I’ve seen a Jarmusch film. Going onto imdb.com in order to check out what other films he’s directed, I was able to glimpse at this dude’s hair—it’s really quite something. Anyway, Broken Flowers absolutely has festival film written all over it, and so when I read that it won the Jury Prize at
Recently, I saw Bill Murray on Elvis Mitchell’s new interview show on Turner Classic Movies, and I’ve got to say that Murray seems like a total a-hole in real life; however, it can’t be denied that he’s one of the truly great comedic geniuses ever to grace the screen. This is confirmed once again by his pitch perfect performance in Broken Flowers. No one in film history is better with ultra-dry humor. I challenge anyone to watch Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Broken Flowers back to back and disagree.
While I found the motivation for Don’s journey less than compelling (why didn’t he simply wait around to see if his son would turn up at his house like the letter said), I thought the journey itself was executed brilliantly. Jarmusch wonderfully interplays moments of over the top absurdity (the naked daughter, the animal communicator, the men at the biker’s house) with the most refreshing transitional sequences of ultrarealism usually involving Don simply driving with music playing in the background. Jarmusch strikes the perfect chord involving comedy and character study, which really makes Broken Flowers quite agreeable.
The film’s ending might frustrate some. At first, the encounter between Don and the young man feels totally unoriginal, and then something happens which ends the film in a messy way with no real answers. Personally, I felt challenged once the movie was over because it didn’t leave me with satisfying narrative conclusions. I’ll never fault a film for challenging me. Sure, I wanted to know whether or not I was correct in suspecting that his neighbor Wilson wrote the letter himself in order to get Don off of the couch in order to do something interesting for once. I’ll never know if I was right or not, and as such, I’ll always have been right, and I’ll always have been wrong as well. Jarmusch lets his audience decide. In my book, regarding Jim Jarmusch, I will now put down “great director” right next to “great cartoon character!”