Winter 2006 Main series
Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 4:00pm
Sunday, January 8, 2006 at 7:00pm
Monday, January 9, 2006 at 7:00pm
Rated 14A ·
The sweetly melancholic Broken Flowers, winner of the Grand Prix at the 2005 Festival de Cannes, is Jim Jarmusch’s (Coffee and Cigarettes) most mainstream movie to date, though it remains firmly within the writer director’s tradition of episodic films that resist sentimentality and convenient conclusions. Bill Murray’s (Lost in Translation) trademark brand of deadpan ennui is a sure fit for this tale of a middle aged Don Juan (named Don Johnston) who embarks on a reluctant trip down memory lane. The pilgrimage finds Murray opposite a dream cast of actresses in five discretely distinct sequences.
Fed up with his refusal to settle down, Don’s girlfriend (Julie Delpy, Before Sunset) moves out of his oversized house on the same day a mysterious pink envelope arrives in the mail. The letter—quaintly typewritten in red ink—informs Don that he’s the father of a nineteen-year-old son who might be looking for him. In an offbeat spin on unknown father syndrome, the mother leaves the life-shattering note unsigned. Don is blasé about the revelation, but his amateur sleuth neighbor, Winston (a delightful turn by Jeffrey Wright, The Manchurian Candidate), eagerly digs in to solve the mystery, asking for a list of Don’s girlfriends from twenty years ago and creating a road trip itinerary complete with plane, hotel and car rental reservations. Mainly as a distraction from the oppressive emptiness of his home life, Don agrees to hit the road.
Don’s visits to his four exes—the four potential authors of the mysterious letter—take him through unidentified locales that all have a rural suburban feel to them (evocative in some ways of Desperate Housewives), but from various points on the economic scale. His offering of pink flowers meets varying responses: open arms from the widowed mother (Sharon Stone, Cold Creek Manor) of a teenage daughter; awkward hospitality from an ex-hippie who’s now into real estate (Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under); condescension from a New Age animal communicator (Jessica Lange, Big Fish); and outright hostility from a backwoods biker chick (a raven-haired, unrecognizable Tilda Swinton, Adaptation).
In the kind of angst-ridden role that’s become his speciality, Murray delivers wonderfully dry comic moments as a weary but willing traveller. He reaches new depths of quiet, pathos-laden hilarity in this crazy, self-absorbed character, while Jarmusch’s patented deadpan direction lends the film a pleasingly poignant tone without relinquishing its gentle, captivating absurdity.