The resolutely single Don (Bill Murray) has just been dumped by his latest lover, Sherry (Julie Delpy). Don yet again resigns himself to being alone and left to his own devices. Instead, he is compelled to reflect on his past when he receives a mysterious pink letter from an anonymous former lover and informs him that he has a 19-year-old son who may now be looking for his father. Don is urged to investigate this "mystery" by his friend and neighbor, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), an amateur sleuth and family man. Don reluctantly embarks on a cross-country trek in search of clues from four former flames (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton). His unexpected visit to each of these women holds a new surprise for Don as he haphazardly confronts his past and, consequently, his present.
Review by Louise Keller:
A beguiling road movie, where the stops along the way are of the heart, Broken Flowers is a sublime delicacy. Jim Jarmusch's Cannes Grand Prix winner is perceptive and intelligent, and what a pleasure it is to watch yet another exemplary performance from Bill Murray. How many actors do you know who can make eating crinkle-cut carrots look interesting?
We quickly get a pretty good idea what Murray's Don Johnston is like, when his soon-to-be ex-girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy) tells him he's an over-the-hill Don Juan. He happens to be watching The Private Life of Don Juan on his plasma screen at the time, and the distinctive pink envelope with red handwriting that has just been delivered with the mail reeks of feminine allure. Don's life is blatantly empty. Despite the comfortable surrounds of his elegant home, it has no warmth. Unlike the compelling chaos at his neighbour Winston's (Jeffrey Wright) where the laughter of children sounds like a tuned up orchestra. It's only because of Winston's penchant for amateur detective work online, that track-suit toting Don is pushed off his lazy daily pedestal in his lounge room as he watches TV or listens to music. Winston convinces Don he needs to chip into his 20 year old little black book and pay a visit to the four women who may have written the provocatively unsigned pink letter, informing him he is a father.
'Look for clues,' Winston tells him as he bundles Don into a plane with a folder filled with addresses, maps and a cd featuring music from his Ethiopian homeland whose every phrase sounds like a question mark. And so begins our journey. Although Don is making the trip (in the plane, the hire car etc), the action is all around him; there's an elderly lady nodding off on the plane, giggling girls on the bus eyeing a Calvin Klein underwear model look-alike, an annoying teen with a whinnying horse and a man talking to a rabbit.
As Don makes his (non-comfort) stops and knocks on the door of his past, we meet the four women who could be the mother of his son. Like Don, we play detective and look around for clues. Each of the women seems obsessed by the colour pink, and the gaucheness with which he asks them whether they have a son - or a typewriter - is highly amusing. One thing is for sure - each of the women is strange and they all make an impact. There's Sharon Stone's rose-swilling Laura and her seductive teenage daughter Lo (a stand-out performance from Alexis Dziena -'my real name's Lolita') who is eager to live up to her name. Then there's sedate real-estate Dora (Frances Conroy), Carmen (Jessica Lange), the animal communicator who translates what even her cat is saying, and almost unrecognisable Tilda Swinton as the black-haired biker-chick Penny.
Broken Flowers is a wonderfully droll and perceptive film. It's understated, wry and unexpected with splendid performances. The resolution satisfies every criteria, canvassing the reality and the philosophical. After all, there's the past, the future and the present to contend with.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A little more conventional than most Jim Jarmusch films, except for the ending, Broken Flowers won the Grand Prix at Cannes (2005), and I suspect that was due to the resolutely minimalist, dryly humorous tone driven by Bill Murray's bleak performance as Don Johnston ('with a t') and the high class cast that surround him as his ex flames. Murray is so minimalist here that Jarmusch is in danger of making him a nonentity as a character. His reputation as a successful Don Juan is referred to, but the charm required to put such a rep together over the years is not shown.
Indeed, in the opening scenes, as his latest live-in girlfriend (Julie Delpy) leaves him in a confused state, Don can barely utter a non-plussed word. What - other than perhaps his oft-mentioned success in the computer business - did he have to offer these women? We can see what he can offer to us in front of the screen: beneath the muted performance are the quivering feelings of a man baffled by life, especially his own.
Murray's internalisation worked a treat in Lost in Translation as it cued his character perfectly. Here the character is a tad out of synch with Murray's style, although he still makes for an entertaining travelling companion in a downbeat sort of way. The road movie element borders on farce, but is too measured and controlled for that. But in his first encounter with his past, the film reaches its entertaining peak as Sharon Stone and her 16 year old daughter Lolita (a stunning cameo from Alexis Dziena) welcome him with open arms.
The other three encounters are less successful for Don - and also for Jarmusch. Although there is a recognisable veracity behind the scenes, they play stilted, but not always stilted enough to be effective as subversive comment. Jarmsuch doesn't seem to have figured out the plot in detail, so he relies on ambiguity and shoves the resolution back on his audience as some sort of moral riddle.
Enjoyable on one level but not quite the deeply satisfying film you might have expected, Broken Flowers is nevertheless filled with humour and some wonderfully observed - and performed - moments.
Email this article
BROKEN FLOWERS (M)
CAST: Bill Murray, Frances Conroy, Julie Delpy, Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Heather Simms, Brea Frazier, Jeffrey Wright, Mark Webber, Alexis Dziena, Chloe Sevigny, Pell James
PRODUCER: Jim Jarmusch,
DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch
SCRIPT: Jim Jarmusch
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Frederick Elmes
EDITOR: Jay Rabinowitz
MUSIC: Mulatu Astatke (songs)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Friedberg
RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2005