|Broken Flowers (2005)
Starring: Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton
Director: Jim Jarmusch
It’s astonishing to think that it took this long for Bill Murray and director Jim Jarmusch to collaborate on a full-length feature film, though Murray did previously appear in a vignette for Jarmusch’s “Coffee and Cigarettes” back in 2003. The comedian’s deadpan acting and Jarmusch’s deadpan camera style (or, as I like to call it, Keeping the Camera on One Person with No Expression for Far Too Long) seemingly go hand in hand. Unfortunately, Murray can be quite boring - even at his best - with no plot to back him up, and he proves just that in Jarmusch’s latest Zen-like art house flick, “Broken Flowers.”
Murray stars as Don Johnston – whom we can only guess has become accustomed to the high volume of “Miami Vice” jokes by the number of times he corrects others about his name - an early retiree who made his fortune off of computers (though just exactly how, we don’t know) and has a reputation for being a ladies man. He’s even still referred to as a sort of Don Juan, both by his neighborhood pal Winston (Jeffrey Wright) and his ex-girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy), whom we see leaving him in the opening minutes of the film. Don dolefully spends most of his days inside of his house while the outside world continues living, and even when he receives an anonymous letter informing him of the 19-year-old son he never knew he had, there’s still little expression on his face.
Taking advice from Winston, Don embarks on a cross-country journey to track down four of his ex-girlfriends in an attempt to find out more about his mystery son. Equipped with pink flowers and a Ford Taurus, Don visits, in order: Laura (Sharon Stone), a recent widow with a teen daughter aptly named Lolita (Alexis Dziena); Dora (Frances Conroy), a goody two shoes real estate agent; Carmen (Jessica Lange), a successful “animal communicator”; and Penny (Tilda Swinton), a white-trash motor-head living a very thrifty lifestyle. It’s pretty obvious that none of these women have anything in common, so it’s hard to imagine a single man being able to sweep so many ladies off their feet in so little time, but therein lies the problem with the film. Don’s past is that much more interesting than the present, and instead of being treated to a more detailed breakdown of his relationships with each woman, we get mostly silence in the form of awkward glances and uncomfortable encounters.
Each actress plays her part well, but it’s Murray’s performance in the film that proves worthy of a Best Actor nomination. Don comes off looking less like a retired ladies man than he does a depressed mobster in the silly posh tracksuits he wears around town. And that’s about the only variety of comedy that’s clearly marked in the script, save for a hilarious moment that involves the naked Lolita hanging around Don as he patiently waits for her mother to return home from work. It’s a shame that Murray’s performance is wasted on such an incongruous script, but if rumors hold true that the actor plans to take a break from the big screen, this may be the last time to see him at his very best. Still, for anyone that’s not a fan of Murray’s recent work, “Broken Flowers” will come out looking more like a clone of “Lost in Translation” than anything original.