Sunday, December 04, 2005

Broken Flowers

As a long time fan of Jim Jarmusch's spare, minimalist approach to cinema, I thought that the ever droll Bill Murray would be a perfect match up for this particular material. Though bits of this plodding film work pretty well (everything with Jeffrey Wright and Frances Conroy), Broken Flowers is a mixed bag of vignettes.

Murray plays, with his typical deadpan comportment, Don Johnston (yes, that is played to death for "laughs"), a former Don Juan who receives a mysterious letter that claims he has a son who may be seeking him out. His next-door neighbor, Winston (the terrific Wright) helps him compile a list of potential mothers from Don's past flames. Winston puts together an itinerary and Don heads off to try to solve the mystery of who his son's mother might be.

What follows is a series of brief interludes with former lovers, played by a collection of terrific actresses (Sharon Stone, Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton) that give us know inclination as to why any of them would have been with Don in the first place (he's extraordinarily uninteresting...the whole "Don Juan" thing is utterly unbelievable).

Still, there are moments of greatness. Jeffrey Wright's Winston is a typically obscure Jarmusch creation, realized by a perfectly attuned actor. And Frances Conroy is haunting as the real estate agent who abandoned a "hippie" lifestyle for a pedestrian: it's cliched, but delicately performed.

The remainder of the film descends into pointless melancholy, and Jarmusch relies far too heavily on a type that Bill Murray has now overplayed.

Jarmusch is unquestionably an American original. He's certainly allowed a minor misstep like
Broken Flowers.

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