Bill Murray is certainly revitalizing his career as a serious actor with films that are a bit more challenging that the slapstick comedies of the 80s and 90s. Certainly a lot of this is due in part to the success of Lost in Translation — a film that I truly adore. (I have a friend that went to Japan and tells me that being in Japan is exactly (for her) like watching Lost in Translation.) But perhaps I should pull the reigns a bit on my praise of Bill Murray. While his films are a bit more serious and challenging in nature, the role that he plays in Broken Flowers is very much the same (if not the complete identical character) as the one that he plays in Lost in Translation.
Broken Flowers follows a middle-aged Bill Murray on a cross country road trip in search of the author of a letter where the writer claims to be an old girlfriend. This past flame is writing to let Murray know that she secretly gave birth to his son after the relationship ended, and that his son may very well come in search of his dad soon. This alone sets the stage for a very intriguing film. From the first few scenes of dialogue, I could tell that this would be a film with intricate detail and overall the type of experience that is far from common these days.
Broken Flowers is such a unique film that I could probably reveal the entire film (although I’ll do no such thing here) and one would still have a fresh experience watching it. During one of the DVD’s extras, the director Jim Jarmusch explains that he enjoys making films where you have no idea what is going to happen next. (More on this in a bit.) This is just the type of film that I enjoy. ‘Enjoy’ might be a bit of a stretch to describe this film, as it’s quite a downer. Watching Bill Murray’s blank and sad expression as he watches television alone at home in the dark evokes all kinds of feelings of depression. However, these scenes help to illustrate his character.
Jeffrey Wright is one of my favorite actors right now. I appreciate his work — not only because he’s a solid actor, but because he finds some of the most challenging roles to play. In this film, he’s Bill Murray’s neighbor and confidant. He and Murray share some of the comedic scenes, which are a nice break from the depressing shots of Bill alone. Jessica Lange and Sharon Stone round out the solid cast of well-defined and intriguing characters.
The most admirable quality that Broken Flowers has is it’s ability to create a true sense of suspense. Bill’s trip involve several visits to the homes of his past girlfriends — none of whom is aware that he’s coming and haven’t been in contact for many years. The awkward discomfort that these scenes evoke makes the film fun to watch and even a bit exciting. I’ll certainly be watching this film again at some point down the road. What further contributes to the feature’s intriguing quality is the fact that it does not completely resolve all plot points. In most films, I would say that this is a bit cheap. (After I’ve invested two hours into your film, give me a sense of completion). But considering the earlier mentioned fact, that the director is out to make a unique and unpredictable film experience, it wasn’t a complete surprise that the loose ends weren’t tied up neatly. Moreover, there are lots of small details that can probably lead the viewer to understand with some degree of certainty what the answers to some questions are. (It also serves as an interesting topic of discussion, as we speculate what happens after the final shot of the movie.)
There isn’t really much bad to say about this one other than the fact that Murray is taking a page from Al Pacino in that he’s staying with one role and expanding that to other films (whoo-haaa!) and that the film probably isn’t reccomended for anyone going through a midlife crisis or who might be on suicide watch. Beyond these small gripes, Broken Flowers is a much needed break from the typical predictable Hollywood features. This film is fresh and provides the viewer with a unique and refreshing experience. Definitely recommended.
One other note — the soundtrack is subtle but is almost a character in the film. It was so good that I went looking for songs from the film. These aren’t typical tunes. There were a few songs that reminded me of a sort of Afro-Jazz kind of sound. There were some mainstream songs thrown in the mix too, but a soundtrack worth noting.