Review by Michael Jacobson
Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange,
Tilda Swinton, Julie Delpy
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Focus Features
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: January 3, 2006
an odd story."
getting into odd stories."
of the great pleasures of my life in film criticism has come over the last
decade, watching Bill Murray evolve from bankable comedy star into one of our
premiere and truly great character actors.
In films like Rushmore and Lost in Translation, I found I
had to remind myself that this was the same guy who once busted ghosts, turned
the army upside down, and sang bad renditions of lounge songs to our delight on
comes Broken Flowers, and his finest performance to date.
It's a career apex not only for him, but for writer/director Jim
Jarmusch. I've been a fan of both
artists for quite some time, and seeing them come together and bring out the
best in one another is nothing short of a sheer delight.
has created a film that equates to forced perspective in painting.
It's a story driven solely by one man's perceptions, which in turn become
our perceptions. We only get to know the characters the way he sees them.
It doesn't say a lot about them, but it says plenty about him, and in a
sense, our perspective of him is really only defined by his perspective of
man is Don Johnston, a middle aged bachelor living a rather solitary existence.
When we meet him, his current girlfriend (Delpy) is leaving him, but
that's not the catalyst of the tale. Instead,
it's a mysterious letter from a long lost flame.
The letter tells Don he has a son he never knew about.
It isn't signed, there is no return address, and the postmark is too
faint to read.
neighbor Winston (Wright), a crime novel buff, takes matters into his own hands.
Based on information reluctantly issued by Don, he crafts a detailed
journey. The flights, hotels,
rental cars and maps are all prepared. All
Don has to do is make the trip to visit four old flames from 20 years past and
try and come up with an answer as to who the son and the mother might be.
visit is a vignette tinged with a little comedy and a little pathos.
We get to see the women from Don's love life and where they are now.
Each one reacts a little differently to the sudden arrival of Don. Don's reactions remain pretty much the same:
quiet, reserved, pensive and observant.
Despite his making the journey, he's not so much a man who makes things
happen. He watches and reacts.
brilliance of Murray's performance is in his eyes, as observed by a good buddy
of mine and fellow Jarmusch enthusiast. He
doesn't talk a lot, but he listens, and the way his eyes are constantly
regarding and taking in information is what anchors the film's concept of
perspective. In a dramatic sense,
he watches to give us information. What
he sees is what we see, but what he thinks remains private, just like our own
thoughts. It's one of the most
introspective and internalized pieces of acting I've come across.
With the wrong actor, such an approach can leave the audience detached,
but Bill Murray shows the wheels are always turning underneath.
a shame as awards season blossom that so little attention has been paid to his
performance. Maybe the movie was
just off the radar, but considering the talented cast, that hardly seems
possible. Every missed nomination
for Best Actor is a travesty, in my opinion.
The voters who end up seeing this movie on DVD after the fact will
probably end up kicking themselves with shame.
Jarmusch is a filmmaker who knows how to craft natural comedy and dramatic
rhythm from his characters, which are sometimes quirky, sometimes inscrutable,
but always possessing a certain fascinating charm that keeps his viewers drawn
in and ready to follow on sometimes unfathomable journeys.
If Broken Flowers is a milestone for Murray, it's equally one for
Jarmusch, and I feel every missed nomination for Best Screenplay he suffers is
put, this is one of the year's best films.
Original and endearing, funny and moving, this is the kind of movie we
fans get far too little of year in and year out. If only we could unmake The Dukes of Hazzard and get a
dozen smaller films as smart and insightful as this, the seemingly endless
Hollywood rut might meet a welcome demise.
is a beautiful looking anamorphic transfer from Focus...nearly perfect, as a
matter of fact. Colors are rich and
natural looking, and detail level is prominent throughout.
Only a mild touch of noticeable grain here and there cost it a half star,
but really, that's not much to complain about.
picture is mostly dialogue-oriented, but the nice music and terrific song score
help give it life. It's the music
that mostly harnesses the subwoofer and rear stage, but that's plenty good
enough for a movie of this nature.
extras are a strange and disappointing lot.
There's a trailer and soundtrack spot, for starters.
After that, there are three...I guess you'd call them featurettes...looks
at the movie, but each is short, disjointed, and stingy with any real
information. One is pretty much an
outtake reel, one is kind of an extended scene, and the last is something I
couldn't really categorize.