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Thread: Broken Flowers (2005)

  1. #1
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    Broken Flowers (2005)

    Bill Murray almost seemingly reprises his role in Lost In Translation (2003) in this new more substantive and reflective piece directed by Jim Jarmusch who doesn't quite capture the consistent totality of the emotional experience from Sophia Coppola's excellent slice of life work. There are great relational moments that many of the audience member's can reflect on in their depths of despair and whimsical fleeting moments of "what ifs" in their past lives. Unfortunately, too much time is wasted on Bill Murray and his friend who creates a somewhat useful foil to egg Murry into his search of a mystery son. Some of the wonderful scenes with past women are almost too incredible, unlike, Lost in Translation to really propell the audience completely into the movie. The stark obvious contrasts between the lives of these women are sometimes too exaggerated for dramatic effect that a even more sensitive and experienced director and scriptwriter would have avoided effectively.

    The director, however, incorporated, some great shots of men's thinking, with plenty of leg shots which occur in the minds of men. Yet, Bill Murray's character in this movie clashed with the effective telling of this story as he came across as somebody who no very many women would have hooked up with in the first place. Unfortunately, this type of story unlike Lost in Translation requires more backstory as the experience as the audience is unable to really truly experience Bill Murray's perceptions as they are supposedly filtered through layers of memories with each of these women that we know nothing about except what is in the present moment as seen on the screen.

    Much is missing in this movie. However, much like Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), the haunting, timeless quality of questions is very riveting in both these movies particularly with the first two women he meets on his trip. How the movie would have impacted the audience with these first two relational scenes placed last will never been known.

    **As I've complained before, the abitrary nature of placing this movie in the more inaccessible archives section of this website makes for discussion of great movies very difficult**

  2. #2
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    Here is my review

    I agree about this archiving stuff. It becomes a very limited discussion that almost no one is aware of. Anyway, here is the review I posted:

    Here is my review

    BROKEN FLOWERS

    Directed by Jim Jarmusch (2005)

    Bill Murray turns emotional deadness into an art form in Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, a film that carefully calculates idiosyncrasy and takes Bill Murray's sleepwalking persona one more step into caricature. The film follows Don Johnston's (note the subtle Don Juan allusion) quest through the American hinterland to discover which of four women from his past may be the mother of a nineteen-year old son he was informed about via an anonymous pink letter and who has set out to find him.

    Engineered by his neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), a working class black family incongruously living next door to a millionaire, Johnston (Murray) goes on a trip with the same lack of energy that he displays at home after his girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy) walks out on him. During the course of the film, we learn nothing of why Don is so apathetic, how the attractive women could have fallen for him in the first place, or what he hoped to accomplish by the search. While it is true that the first step in the journey of discovery is to acknowledge the mistakes you made in the past, Jarmusch paints Don's old flames as cardboard characters with little believability so that it is unclear what mistakes were made and by whom.

    He meets and delivers a bunch of pink flowers to former lovers Laura (Sharon Stone), a widow with a sexy younger daughter named Lolita (wink, wink), (Alexis Dziena), a former hippie named Dora (Frances Conroy), now a bored middle class real estate agent, Carmen (Jessica Lange), a former lawyer turned animal communicator (a really clever New Age dig) with a provocative secretary (Chloe Sevigny), and finally Penny (Tilda Swanson), an angry woman living in a trailer park protected by bikers. He finally visits the grave of a fifth lover who died. Murray greets all of them with the same calculated inertia that becomes tiresome very quickly. Much time is spent by Jarmusch showing Don in his car, Don in airports, Don looking at maps, and Don just being Don.

    The only hint of aliveness comes when he runs after a young boy (Mark Webber), thinking he may be his long lost son. When he catches up with him, he buys him a sandwich and the boy of course asks him if he has any philosophical tips (what else would a boy ask a total stranger?) and Murray suggests that he should forget the past, not worry about the future, and live for the moment. Maybe he will take his own advice, maybe not, but by that time, I was way past caring. As much as I admire many films of both Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch, Broken Flowers is a gimmicky star vehicle that holds nothing genuine in its grasp.

    GRADE: B-


    __________________
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  3. #3
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    My review from August 9, 2005

    New again and still himself

    Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, his deadpan-meets-deadpan adoption of the newly serious minimalist Bill Murray, is certainly one of the American auteur films of the year.

    Jarmusch is more conventional than usual in Broken Flowers in its focus on life, love, and loneliness and its use of name actors. Murray's character is named Don Johnston, and the movie jokes around with the similarity of the name to the Miami Vice glamour boy's, a reference that's poignant since Johnston is, or has been, a Don Juan. Still a bachelor, he's rich from computers. Depressed when Sherrie, his latest girlfriend (Julie Delpy), leaves him, he receives a typed letter on pink paper telling him he has a nineteen-year-old son who's gone traveling and probably aims to look for him. Winston (Jeffrey Wright), Don's Ethiopian neighbor with a beautiful wife, three jobs, and five nice young kids, is an amateur detective, and he persuades Don to write down the names of the women who might have written him the letter. Then he sets up an itinerary, complete with plane and car reservations and MapQuest directions to the ladies' present addresses.

    Unwillingly, the still-depressed Don takes several claustrophobic, deadpan Jarmush plane flights and, "a stalker in a" (rented) "Taurus," visits four women, Laura, Dora, Carmen, and Penny, played respectively by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton, following Winston's instructions to take them pink flowers, look for pink things, and ask them if they have a typewriter or a son. (The focus on pink indicates that the director, who hitherto seemed most at home in black and white, has adopted a more delicate and complex use of color than previously.)

    It's all really just a shaggy dog story: it goes nowhere, though several possible sons appear, and each of the visits is specific and droll.

    Since Murray's reluctant character's typical gesture is to stare into space, perhaps moving his eyes or lips slightly, Jarmusch accordingly has adopted much longer static takes, and the action drags a bit, by previous Jarmusch film standards. Broken Flowers is a new departure, and feels like mature work. Some of the sardonic hipness has been dropped in favor of quiet resignation, but the movie's still heavy with Jarmusch style and wit. The director's just as feisty and observant as he was in Stranger Than Paradise, but for the time being he's found an ironic alter ego in the hilariously neutral Bill Murray. Like all Jarmusch's movies, this one is sliced into discrete segments, conveniently delineated by the visits to the four women, which become the main episodes, book-ended by opening and closing passages in which Winston appears. As in Stranger Than Paradise, a new character turns up toward the end, only to disappear. This time he leaves no windfall.

    You could see Broken Flowers as a jaded reversal of the classic Tom Jones search for the lost father. Instead of ending in a happy reunion and discovered identity, this time the son (Mark Webber), who's probably not, runs away when Don alludes to his fatherhood. But he doesn't say he's the young man's father. He says, "You probably think I'm your father," and the youth appears to think he's mad.

    Broken Flowers is about jadedness, ultimately expressed in a feeling that past and future are equally irrelevant, but Jarmusch isn't too bored to provide funny observed behavior rich in contemporary artifact. As always in this director, the action is borderline absurd, but it's more specific and believable than ever, with an outsider's awareness of specifically American absurdities. Since that was equally true of novelist Vladimir Nabokov, one of our best writers and keenest delineators of American kitsch (he naturally preferred the Russian word, poshlost), it's not surprising that Sharon Stone's daughter -- a voluptuous and giggling young charmer who eagerly exhibits her body to Don -- is named Lolita.

    Another brand of pervasive American kitsch is the jolly capitalist, and this is where Frances Conroy as shy Dora comes in as one of a husband-and-wife team of real estate agents specializing in prefab mansions. Best and most absurd of all is the girlfriend whose dead dog, Winston (more play with names), turned her from the law to a profitable practice as an "animal communicator." Jessica Lange and ChloŽ Sevigny are terrific as communicator and receptionist/secretary, who turn out to have a very special relationship.

    Jarmusch's early movies were a string of deadpan hilarious zingers. He kept up the pace through the Eighties when he was America's prince of cinematic hipness. He took a few side trips, notably his haunting (but always absurd and hilarious) masterpiece, Dead Man, which was Johnny Depp's most recessive and also his greatest role; the Neil Young tribute Year of the Horse; and Ghost Dog:The Way of the Samurai.

    Broken Flowers confirms Jarmusch's ability to grow while remaining pristinely sui generis. Don Johnston might seem his most sympathetic portrait except that we know so little about the man that he winds up being more neutral than sympathetic. But that's the point. Don Juan or not, in the end Murray's a male everyman, bumbling with women, out of touch with his past, miserable and unmotivated and essentially confused yet soldiering on, curiously self-possessed -- ultimately alone. (Broken Flowers won the grand prize at Cannes this year. This is at once a tribute to a very fine screenplay and directing job, and recognition of twenty-five years of outstanding and consistently original work.)

  4. #4
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    Howard Schumann's Acumen

    In contrasting Schumann's very readable and fascinating commentary and Knipp's knowledgeable review, I personally must bow to Schumann's observations that are much closer to my own, less coherent and well-written criticism of this movie. I thank you Mr. Schumann for taking the time to share your thoughts that helped to focus even my thoughts about this movie even further with your concise plot overview and background commentary.

  5. #5
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    Re: Howard Schumann's Acumen

    Originally posted by tabuno
    In contrasting Schumann's very readable and fascinating commentary and Knipp's knowledgeable review, I personally must bow to Schumann's observations that are much closer to my own, less coherent and well-written criticism of this movie. I thank you Mr. Schumann for taking the time to share your thoughts that helped to focus even my thoughts about this movie even further with your concise plot overview and background commentary.
    Thanks for your comment. I'm glad we see eye to eye on this film though as I said I am a great admirer of Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch but just did not connect with this film.
    "They must find it hard, those who have taken authority as truth, rather than truth as authority" Gerald Massey

  6. #6
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    hmmm,
    i am not sure what to cut and paste or edit,

    so, here are some of my earlier random thoughts
    http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/show...broken+flowers

    ;)

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