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'Broken Flowers,' Scattered Pollen, and Displaced Petals

  • Oct 13, 2006
  • by
Rating:
+3
Life is mysterious. Sometimes bombshells shake us up. Life seems to be a run toward fulfillment with expectations that frustrate our deepest desires. Such is the quandry for Don Johnston (Bill Murray) who is a solitary middle-aged bachelor. His live in lover, Sherry (Julie Delpy) leaves him at the beginning. He seems slightly startled out of his orbit, but her complaints provide the crux of his situation. "You're never going to change," she complains. "I don't want to be with an over-the-hill Don Juan...," and "I'm just like your mistress, except you're not even married." Romance is certainly not elusive for Don "the Juan" Johnston, but he seems attached to the experience and not any lover. He dreamily lives his life through dinner with wine, DVD's, and classical music, sitting almost stupor-like, oblivious to all but the nuances of his surroundings.

It is, however, at this transition that he receives a mysterious pink letter. In it he is told by a former lover that he fathered their boy who is now about twenty years older and set on a sojourn to find and meet him. She relates some of his personality traits, but otherwise leaves his son mysterious. The handwriting is unrecognizable, and the letter is unsigned. Meanwhile, he makes his best emotional connection with his next door neighbor friend, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), an Ethiopian emigre' who works hard, is an amiable presence, and works three jobs while grooming to be a freelance mystery writer. His family, including his precocious and cute daughter, Rita (Brea Frazirer) provides a vicarious outlet for Don to the family life. Don is clueless to any emotional connection to his newly identified son, but Winston, naturally, is fascinated. After a series of meetings between the two friends, Winston has gathered a whole plan to find the mother and lover who bore Don's son. Winston's detective sensibilities provide the addresses, workplaces, and MapQuest directions (even a burned soundtrack C.D. for his romantic quest). At first Don resists, then he is convinced: It is fascinating and worthwhile to connect with the past. "Bring pink flowers...look for red typewriter ribbon and pink stationery...just say you're checking in..." are the key words Winston advises to make the trek work.

The movie makes emotional connections by rejuvenating Don's spirit at times. It provides all of the awkwardness one would expect to find in an adult comedy. Fragments of his former love lives come to roost. Sometimes it is refreshing (as with Laura [Sharon Stone]), and sometimes it is downright awkward (as with Dora [Frances Conroy] when he finds her married to a man who remembers him as a past love interest, while expounding on trite pleasantries during dinner about how their marriage is so wonderful.) It is here that Murray shows his comic prowess. Much of the humor is written on his face (not unlike Bob Newhart, only here he is more subtle with less agitation). Besides that all of the encounters have that school reunion uneasiness where everyone stares at one another until the other party recognizes the addressed guest. The four encounters with the would-be mothers provide anything from the sublime to the tragic.

We leave 'Broken Flowers' with tender longing. The film is not entirely unlike Bill Murray's other acting achievement 'Lost in Translation'. There is loneliness presented in distant worlds with whimsey and aching trying to break through the pattern of longing and unrealized fulfillment. Don Johnston may or may not fulfil his inquiry into life's rich enigma's, but Jim Jamusch's directing perfects with bullseye precision this fascinating, easy chair trek. And, just like 'Lost in Translation,' we too, have been transported by the same sojourn as the protagonist. Some of the movie is deliberately slow moving with a reflectiveness that deserves the treatment of its subject matter. The aftermath of 'Broken Flowers' leaves us to reflect on our own thoughts about our own world in all of its possibilities...

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More Broken Flowers reviews
review by . December 04, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
A man receives an anonymous letter informing him he is the father of a 19-year old son, so he sets off on a journey to visit his old girlfriends to see which one wrote the letter.      Bill Murray stars in this movie which is, at times, funny, pathetic, and shocking but mostly just boring. His character is an unappealing, solitary man who shows no interest or emotion; Murray pretty much phones in his performance, so underplaying his role that I wondered why he bothered at all. …
review by . May 11, 2009
This is a movie where you wait for something to happen and nothing ever does! What's worse is that the ending did not resolve the story. Bill Murray as a kind of loser who receives an unsigned note from an old girlfriend claiming that he is the father of her child. Murray seeks out 4 old girlfriends to find out who might have sent it. The director tries to be cute by having the daughter of one of the women (named Lolita of course) walk around naked in front of him. This was supposed to be the comedy …
review by . February 03, 2009
Pros: scenery, auxillary actors     Cons: Bill Murray, boring movie     The Bottom Line:   “And you can send me dead flowers every morning  Send me dead flowers by the mail”  ~Mick Jagger & Keith Richards     Don Johnston, a confirmed bachelor, has been dumped by yet another woman. Although he appears affluent, rich through something he did with computers, he remains alone and friendless except …
review by . September 12, 2007
Although the movie itself is interesting, well performed, engaging and mostly excellent, it just fails at the end. I was left wanting for a real ending
review by . June 25, 2006
This is a movie where you wait for something to happen and nothing ever does! What's worse is that the ending did not resolve the story. Bill Murray as a kind of loser who receives an unsigned note from an old girlfriend claiming that he is the father of her child. Murray seeks out 4 old girlfriends to find out who might have sent it. The director tries to be cute by having the daughter of one of the women (named Lolita of course) walk around naked in front of him. This was supposed to be the comedy …
review by . January 07, 2006
Jim Jarmusch continues his exploration of the human plight with BROKEN FLOWERS, a story he both wrote and directed, and this time he examines the psyche and the consequences of the Don Juan complex. In doing so he offers a quiet meditation about choices and their reverberations and leaves many thoughts open-ended, a definite tribute to the intelligence of his viewers and followers.    Don Johnston (Bill Murray) is a middle aged bachelor who has devoted his life to being a success …
review by . August 29, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
Near the end of this film, a young man who might be Don Johnston's (Bill Murray's) son asks for a bit of philosophical wisdom from a fellow traveler. What he gets (see the title for this review) is not original but probably appropriate for one who gets described by almost everyone else as a "Don Juan." That is, of course, the idea behind the famous romancer: that romantic love and sex are all about the here and now (that is why romantic love and marriage are such uneasy "bed partners": the best …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #99
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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Bill Murray gives yet another simple, seemingly effortless, yet illuminating performance in Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. Don Johnston (Murray,Lost in Translation,Rushmore) receives an anonymous letter telling him that he has a 19 year old son who's looking for him. Don only decides to investigate at the prompting of his neighbor Winston (the indispensable Jeffrey Wright,Shaft,Basquiat), who not only tracks down the current addresses of the possible mothers, he plans Don's entire trip down to the rental cars. Almost against his will, Don finds himself knocking at the doors of four very different women (Sharon Stone,The Quick and the Dead; Frances Conroy,Six Feet Under; Jessica Lange,Sweet Dreams; and Tilda Swinton,The Deep End) who were once his lovers. Part road movie, part detective story, part existential meditation,Broken Flowersis even more minimalist than most Jarmusch movies (Stranger Than Paradise,Dead Man,Mystery Train)--anyone looking for an easy resolution should look elsewhere. But for anyone willing to let a movie be a poem as much as a story--i.e., let it observe behavior without explaining it--Broken Flowerswill offer a wealth of mysteries, gestures, and Bill Murray's soulful eyes. It's a movie that's wonderfully eloquent about what's not being said.--Bret Fetzer
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