Returning from a visit to a girlfriend of mine in San Diego, I dropped into LA to pay my buddy Chip a visit. Weary from my travels, he popped in a movie and sparked up a much needed bowl. Although I fell asleep the first time through the movie, I finished Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers" this morning.
Bill Murray plays the protagonist (if you can call his character that), Don Johnston, who is an aging Don Juan. We are acquainted with Don as his most recent flame, Sherry (Julie Delpy), is leaving him and here it can be seen how empty both Don and his life is. After her departure, Don opens a mysterious pink letter which informs him that he has an 18 year old son who is currently looking for him. Don's Ethiopian neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright) takes interest in Don's dilemma and sends Don out on a cross country road trip to meet up with old girlfriends to look for clues as to who the mother may be.
Spoiler alert: Skip if you don't want to ruin the surprises.
Along the way Don systematically reveals a life of missed opportunities, crushed souls, and regret. Laura (Sharon Stone)is a widowed free spirit of sorts who's race car driving husband died in a car crash on national television. She lives alone with her appropriately named daughter, Lolita (Alexis Dziena), who walks out of her room fully naked in front of Don. One of the films highlights, to be sure.
Dora (Frances Conroy) is a Realtor who is locked in a controlling marriage and a painfully sterile house in which it becomes obvious that she has exchanged for her flower child past. Don's third girlfriend is an animal communicator named Carmen (Jessica Lange) who clearly is suspicious of Don's motives and who is fiercely guarded by an overprotective and possibly lesbian secretary, at least I would like to think so, played by Chloë Sevigny. Penny (Tilda Swinton) is by far the most angry at Don for his past transgressions and has Don beaten up and left in his rental car out in the middle of a field.
His eye cut and his ego bruised, Don stops into a florist shop to buy his last bouquet of pink roses. The florist (Pell James) cleans up his wounds and he sets off to to see the last of his past lovers, and lays his bouquet on her grave. Indeed, this is one of the most powerful scenes in the movie as we see Don show true remorse as he sits by her grave sullen, silent, and staring off into oblivion as it starts to rain.
In the end, Don returns defeated and depressed with no clues as to who the mother may be or where his son is. Desperate for answers, Don spots a young man in the street and mistakens him for his son. After buying him a sandwich and offering fatherly advise about past and present, Don scares off the young man when he announces that he may be his father. Freaked out by Don's seemingly random revelation, the boy runs away as Don tries to chase after him. Just then a blue-eyed boy (Homer Murray) drives by in a Volkswagon Bug who never breaks eye contact with Don until the car drives out of frame. Don stares out into the distance as the camera circles him twice and fades to black.
Overall this is an excellent film that should resonate with most men who have had a past of sowing one's oats. This is sort of the Anti-Don Juan story, in where Don's past catches up with him and bachelorhood is shown for what it truly is, a life of loneliness, broken hearts, and meaningless sex. "Broken Flowers" will leave those who practice serial monogamy and one night stands with a healthy fear of the consequences of such a lifestyle, yet does so without coming off as preachy or self righteous.
The only flaw with this movie is that some of the scenes are painfully stagnant, as some of the shots are carried for long periods of time. In some instances this works exceptionally well, like during the awkward dinner at Dora's house, but other times certain shots could retain the humor and be fifteen seconds shorter. "Broken Flowers" tends to be a slow moving film with little dialogue, and most of its focus is on facial expression and body language. Unfortunately, this both helps and hurts the film as some of the subtlety will be lost on audience members with short attention spans.
Overall, I give this film an A-.