Broken Flowers

Broken Flowers

Broken Flowers

directed by Jim Jarmusch

starring Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone

Focus Features

There’s something strange about Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers, something that is hard to really grasp until some time around halfway into the film. There’s a certain quality, something abstract, more a feeling than anything really tangible that gives the movie a vaguely foreign quality, as if it were something that couldn’t have possible been produced by an American studio — and then it clicks. There are no explosions, not one-liners, and what nudity and wacky moments the film presents are undoubtedly there to serve some greater purpose. Bill Murray’s protagonist, Don Johnston (okay, maybe there are a few cheap gags), is quiet, deadpanned, even introspective. The film unfolds at a leisurely rate, with stretches of silence, vaguely artistic shots of airplanes taking off into the horizon. All rare things for a film with honest-to-god star power, in a summer where the title of ‘most thought-provoking film from an American studio’ is a toss up between Charlie and Chocolate Factory and The Forty Year Old Virgin (and after watching the two back-to-back, I’m opting to the latter — though I have to admit, I’ve yet to see both Red Eye and The Wedding Crashers).

Bill Murray and Julie Delpy

Bill Murray and Julie Delpy

Johnston is a well-to-do bachelor, having made enough money with some vague job involving computers to afford him the luxury of sitting on his leather couch, watching black and white films on his giant plasma screen day in and out, The Private Life of Don Juan the telling choice as the film opens, his current girlfriend, Shelly (Linklater favorite, Julie Delpy) throwing her suitcases into her Jetta, in search of greener pastures. Upon her exit, an anonymous pink envelope falls through the mail slot, informing Johnston that he has a long-lost son. At the insistence of his pulp-mystery-obsessed next door neighbor Winston, portrayed by an exceedingly jovial Jeffrey Wright, Johnston puts his funds to use, buying plane tickets and renting hotel rooms and a series of Ford Tauruses, pay a series of unexpected visits on old girlfriends he suspects of having written the note.

Bill Murray and Jessica Lange

Bill Murray and Jessica Lange

Each visit finds Johnston driving deeper into a forest down a country road, discovering an ex that, given the increasing brevity of each visit, serves as more of a character study, serving more to flush out Johnston’s character than any of their own. There’s the former wife of a NASCAR driver and mother of a too-fittingly-named young tease, the new age “animal communicator,” the detached and uber-organized real estate guru and the hot-headed biker chick. Jarmusch makes the careful decision to not allow his audience the opportunity to get any more attached to any of these women than Johnston’s former womanizing will allow, revealing both insight into Johnston’s only occasionally alluded-to past, as well as a series of imagined clues as to the identity of the letter writer that would make Winston’s amateur sleuthing proud.

Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton

Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton

As always, Jarmusch’s script and direction refuse the big payoff, but as always, his journey is well worth its own reward, leaving Broken Flowers a beautifully quiet, leisurely but rarely meandering meditation on the detours of life that shape us as people.

Focus Features:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Too Much and Never Enough
    Too Much and Never Enough

    One families indifference and abandonment gave America its greatest failure. Mary Trump explains how.

  • Summerland

    In rural England, a cranky woman bonds with and evacuee boy and uncovers a strange connection to her past.

  • Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations
    Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

    These geniuses of early comedy finally get the presentation they are due in this Blu-ray edition.

  • Four-Letter Words
    Four-Letter Words

    No need to worry about offending delicate sensibilities with this playlist. We’re not talking about profanity, so just take the title at face value.

  • A Genesis In My Bed
    A Genesis In My Bed

    Former Genesis guitarist, Steve Hackett shares his life story in his story in an engaging and honest memoir. Reading his story feels like hanging out with a friend who’s interested in sharing how he felt living these experiences.

  • The Jayhawks
    The Jayhawks

    XOXO (Sham/Thirty Tigers). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

  • 18 to Party
    18 to Party

    When you’re in 8th grade, sneaking into a bar is way cooler than it is when you’re 40.

  • Adam

    A pregnant woman finds a home in Casablanca.

  • 2020 on Fire
    2020 on Fire

    Sound Salvation takes on current events with a playlist addressing the current fight for racial and social justice in America and the battles playing out in the streets in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

  • Pokey Lafarge
    Pokey Lafarge

    Rock Bottom Rhapsody (New West Records). Review by Jeremy Glazier.

From the Archives