Broken Flowers

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Since his independent breakout cult-hit Stranger Than Paradise, Jim Jarmusch has fallen into that category of “too cool for school” directors (including David Lynch, Hal Hartley, Paul Thomas Anderson, Gus Van Sant, Spike Lee, etc.) that divides film buffs who either love his stuff or just don’t get it. I happen to be in the former category and have always looked forward to the latest Jarmusch film. While some have been less successful (the uneven but amusing Coffee and Cigarettes and the rambling and indulgent Dead Man), Broken Flowers marks what may be his finest and most mature work since his classics like the aforementioned Stranger, Mystery Train and Night On Earth. Of course, some accused the hip auteur of selling out, calling Broken Flowers his most commercial film yet but I disagree. While Broken Flowers may be more accessible than some of Jarmusch’s others and in this case may be the best selection to choose for new converts, it still has his trademark odd sense of humor, off-the-wall moments and is filled with eccentric characters that linger long after they’ve vanished from a scene, not to mention his rockin’ taste in obscure music like Ethiopian jams and singer Holly Golightly (see link below). In the film, Bill Murray proves once again that he’s getting better with age and in his willingness to take risks by choosing fascinating work, appearing in films by up-and-coming directors like Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola. Murray portrays Don Johnston, an “over-the-hill Don Juan,” who receives an anonymous letter at the beginning of the film alerting him that twenty years earlier he had fathered a son. Jeffrey Wright provides great support (actually playing the funny man to Murray’s internalized, subtle straight man) as his neighbor Winston—an aspiring mystery writer who, despite working three jobs and taking care of his large family, takes it upon himself to locate the whereabouts of the five women who may have borne Don a son. Endlessly egged by Winston and provided bookings, rental cars and an itinerary, Don reluctantly sets off on his journey to the past and it’s a fascinating opus as he encounters the women he’d left behind (including Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton) and discovers that they’ve all taken vastly different paths in life including white trash Lolitaville, yuppie heaven, a doctor who communicates with “animal friends,” and life as an unhappy farm wife. By going along with Don for the ride, we come to appreciate Jarmusch’s universal interest in the themes of happiness and existentialism and admire his love for humanity in general by witnessing and celebrating the many directions a life can take, including the ones that don’t appear to make much sense to the average viewer. While some complained about the lack of clear resolution and questions raised in the last fifteen minutes, it’s fitting to Don’s plight that he may not solve the case himself (and it’s up to us) because the answer was in the journey, not in any set conclusion.

Holly Golightly

Holly Golightly - Broken Flowers (Soundtrack from the Motion Picture)

Jim Jarmusch