MovieHype00650 – BROKEN FLOWERS
Like many people, I became a big fan of Bill Murray during the ‘90s. Two of his biggest comedies were WHAT ABOUT BOB and GROUNDHOG DAY. (I liked THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE even better, a combination of the first two.) There’s no doubt in my mind that
And yet, I’ve always found an edge of sadness to
With BROKEN FLOWERS (available on video)
Director Jim Jarmusch quiet films, telling the story by watching what happens. In BROKEN FLOWERS, we definitely get a quiet film. At times we almost get a silent film, as Don Johnston is unwilling or unable to muster even the energy for a conversation.
Here’s the set-up. On the morning that his latest girlfriend leaves him, Don gets a mysterious unsigned letter. A relationship from 20 years ago has given Don an unknown son (who may come looking for him).
Don’s neighbor Winston, played hilariously by Jeffrey Wright, is an amateur detective, and Don’s letter intrigues him. He gets Don to write down every woman whom this letter could possibly be from, coming up with five names. Winston tracks the women down, and sets up a road trip for Don to visit them, attempting to uncover the secret of who is son really is.
Don really has no interest in this trip. Yet he does it. The five women are very different, of course, played by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under) Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton (who played the White Witch in NARNIA).
Suspension of Disbelief: 2 (out of 10). A movie-conceit that he would get a letter like this after all these years and the woman wouldn’t even sign it. Everything else seems spot on.
Genre Grade: Recently we’ve had the Dramedy (dramatic comedy). I’m tempted to call this a Sademy, but that’s too close to sodomy. Let’s call is a Melancholy Comedy (a Melancom). LOST IN TRANSLATION is the most recent example, and in this genre I’d give BROKEN FLOWERS a B+.
Family Fare? Other than that one jarring scene, fine for older people. In fact, I think they’d relate to it more. Just be sure they don’t mind ten seconds of naked teenager.
Kickassability? I’m going to give a generous 11 (out of 100), because Jeffrey Wright is just hilarious. I wanted to watch a buddy film just of these two.
Pantheon Percentile: For what it is BROKEN FLOWERS is very effective. However, due to the quiet sad tone this just isn’t going to appeal to that many people. Still, any chance these days to watch
The mystery of the story is actually not a big factor. We are here to watch Don on his journey, tap into his past painfully, as he does the same. Through it all
BROKEN FLOWERS is a great character study, and at times bitingly funny, but I don’t want to mislead you. There is very little action, and not much dialogue. Entire scenes play out silently, watching Don on his trip. Also, the film is shrouded in sadness. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a main character this depressed throughout an entire movie. Still, if you are a big Bill Murray fan or appreciate a quiet contemplative film, this might be right up your alley.
One final note. (MILD SPOILER, BUT YOU’RE BETTER OFF KNOWING THAN NOT.) The film is Rated R, which seemed odd since there are barely any swear words in the movie. However, one of the women from Don’s past (Sharon Stone’s character, and boy does she look different), has a teenage daughter appropriately named Lolita. (Who would name their daughter that? You’re just asking for trouble). The girl answers the door in a robe, and invites Don in, a total stranger, with apparent ease. Anyone who's been around the block has to know she’s coming on to him. Yet when she reappears in a minute, stark naked, it’s still quite a shock.
I mention this because I saw the film with my parents, and it wasn’t an experience any of us wanted to go through again. Just in case you have impressionable family around, you need to be aware.