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236 out of 330 people found the following review useful:
Wonderfully unique and charming (but perhaps too spare), 4 June 2005
Author: drjimmycooper from United States
I just saw this at a press screening. It's very smart, well-made and
entertaining, directed with sure-handed control, full of quirky, funny
moments and superb acting. The film pretty much avoids clichés,
although it does rely a bit on the familiar "Aren't Middle-Americans
quirky?" idea for its humor. But Jarmusch never goes too far with this,
his restraint keeping the film propelled from beginning to end.
The only weakness for me is rooted in the film's strength: I feel like there's not quite enough here.
Murray's character is beleaguered and despondent, Murray plays him with perfect subtlety. This is fun and fascinating to watch; I found myself hanging onto every little expression on Murray's face. But, the combination of his passive, muted performance and the spare storytelling left me wanting more. It just doesn't have as much impact as I feel it could have. So, yes, it's wonderful minimalism, but perhaps a bit too slight of a movie to have any lasting resonance.
Bill Murray has added another very good performance to his career, and Jim Jarmusch has made another compact little gem (unlike some of his more recent films). Unique and entertaining. Definitely worth seeing.
128 out of 184 people found the following review useful:
Another quiet and beautiful film, 5 August 2005
Author: mcshortfilm from United States
There has been a lot of talk that "Broken Flowers" is Jim Jarmusch's
most commercially accessible film to date. One can almost hear Jarmusch
muttering something reactionary like "commercial? That's just a label."
It's a label that some Jarmusch fans might associate with "selling
out". But selling out does not apply to Jim Jarmusch. He still has
complete control of his work and is still the only American filmmaker
who owns his own negatives. If "Broken Flowers" does break into the
mainstream, it is nothing overly deliberate. Jarmusch makes familiar
films that seem intimate in their tone. He toys with old themes while
still leaving his films open to interpretation.
"Broken Flowers" is a travelogue and like most Jarmusch films, the story is more concerned with the journey but not so much about the destination. Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a man who we know little about. We know he's single and we know he's had some flame's in the past. The last one just walked out on him. When Don receives an anonymous letter from one of these old flames, he learns that he has a twenty year old son who might be looking for him." Don thinks this is a joke but takes the advice from a friend to unfold the mystery by tracking down his past flings. He flies somewhere to a generic American place, rents a car and begins his investigation. Each ex has an individual personality but most of them share something similar. They are content and have moved on from the past. One of the ex's we meet works in real estate and decides it would be a good idea for her to get into the water business because "one day in the near future it will be more valuable then oil." The atmosphere is awkward and rather then care whether this woman is responsible for the anonymous letter, we just feel like getting out of there. The film's journey is absurd in many ways because we are never sure what the real point is. What is Don going to do if he does find his son? This where Bill Murray's credit as an actor shines through. We see from his small facial gestures that he is empty, and sad. There is a sense of longing as if life took a wrong turn somewhere and it is only now that he is realizing it. The ending of "Broken Flowers" is what really makes the film special. Don't expect too much or too little. Just see it. Its inspiring, hopeful and better then any other movie this year. The film also has a great soundtrack by Ethiopian musician, Mulatu Astatke. And we see in the credits that Jarmusch dedicated the film to French filmmaker Jean Eustache. Jean Eustache made a phenomenal film in the 1960's titled, "The Mother and The Whore". He had an influence on John Cassavetes and likewise both had an influence on Jim Jarmusch.
93 out of 127 people found the following review useful:
A snail's pace with no payoff, 20 August 2005
Author: Stephanie Lein Walseth from Minnesota
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After viewing the trailer, I was hopeful that Broken Flowers might
prove to be a subtly humorous and sweet film such as Lost in
Translation, which I very much liked. But by the end I, and my family,
couldn't believe we had been made to sit through two hours of
excruciatingly slow pacing for no seeming reason.
I am not a film buff, but am a theater person. Though I don't know all of Jarmusch's previous films, tactics, or techniques, I do understand some basic principles of storytelling, and I feel that this did not meet them satisfactorily. It is a beautiful and satisfying thing for the writer to leave something to the audiences' imagination, making them engage their imaginations to complete the story rather than remain passive viewers who are spoon fed answers and entertainment.But this can be taken too far, and I felt that the film left too much to the audience, without providing enough meat to sink our imaginations into.
The one really touching moment came,I thought, when at the end of his list of former girlfriends, he visits a graveyard and the gravestone of a former flame. A close shot catches Murray with tears welling in his eyes. This would have been a terrific moment...if we hadn't been made to wait so long that we didn't even care.
I agree with other comments that I saw little to no trace of the Don Juan that could have attracted so many women (including the four women in the film whom he supposedly bedded the same year). Even if he had had an incredible vigor in the past, why would he have a gorgeous girlfriend apparently 20 years his junior at present? And what does he want? I was never able to discover that. Without any seeming motivation and without the development of relationships or any type of build that culminated in anything significant, I felt cheated by the end. Any point that could be made in the film feels like it could have been made in the first 30 minutes. After that it was just more of the same. Whereas Lost in Translation made a statement about the loneliness of two people in a foreign country by its slow pace, it also interwove the pacing with a touching and unconventional relationship that gave the audience something to engage in and watch develop. Nothing seemed to develop here. Which raises the question, Why should we care?
111 out of 163 people found the following review useful:
A low-key picaresque, 16 August 2005
Author: John DeSando (firstname.lastname@example.org) from Columbus, Ohio
Barely dramatic, thematic but enigmatic, that's Jim Jarmusch's Broken
Flowers. His Stranger than Paradise was exactly that, a Cleveland road
trip to existential uncertainty. In Broken Flowers, Bill Murray as Don
Johnston is also on a trip, but more certain of his goal than anyone in
Stranger, for he seeks out his alleged son by visiting former lovers,
one of whom anonymously wrote that she had borne him a child 19 years
The formidable women, including a randy Sharon Stone happily lampooning her film persona and Tilda Swinton, tougher and more dangerous than all the others in her biker mom role, never really sway him from seeking his son or finding himself. Beyond discovering that you can't change the past of "an over-the-hill Don Juan," much less understand him, reflected in the depressing but authentic lack of communication with all but one of his wives, Murray may have discovered on his low-key picaresque a truer self than he had ever known before. He may be beaten up physically, he may be unable to close the case of his putative son, and he may have divorced himself from his millionaire persona as a computer whiz, but he remains a deeply calm, lonely wanderer in his effort to solve his case.
An amateur detective, neighbor Winston has the spirit and energy Don does not have, yet Don is deeper and more reflective. In fact he outstrips all of his former loves in kindness and caring in calm response to often explosive situations, for instance when Stone's daughter, Lolita, comes on to him only to find he is not available.
I complain American films are not sophisticated like Euro flicks, but Jarmusch has come close with this slow, laconic, and demanding indie. Hats off to Bill Murray for mixing minimalist with passionate this time aroundhis purpose and his change of character make his aging Hollywood star Bob from Lost in Translation just a dress rehearsal for this Oscar-worthy performance and film.
Perhaps Don's discovery is twofold: his potential to love others and himself. As Alexander Smith declared, "Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition."
48 out of 59 people found the following review useful:
Good Movie from an On Again/Off Again Director, 31 January 2006
Author: brocksilvey from United States
I can't think of an actor better suited to play the expressionless
chronic bachelor Don at the heart of Jim Jarmusch's newest movie than
Bill Murray. His mournful hound-dog face, which hides any trace of
what's going on inside the head on which it sits, stares blankly at the
T.V., at other people, sometimes at nothing, betrays itself with the
slightest movement of the mouth or twitch of the eyes. It's a
characterization Murray has so down pat that I'm tempted to think he's
not really acting all that much, but he's so perfectly cast that it
doesn't much matter whether he's acting or not.
If you're not familiar with the movies of Jim Jarmusch, "Broken Flowers" is a nice introduction, as it's the most accessible Jarmusch film I've seen. I'm not a huge fan, but I liked this movie quite a lot. Don receives an anonymous letter one day from a past girlfriend, telling him he has a 19-year-old son who may come looking for him. Murray's friend, Winston (played amusingly by the chameleon Jeffrey Wright), convinces him to track down a handful of women who could have possibly been the mother and resolve the mystery. Don agrees to it, seemingly not so much because he has a need to know but because he has nothing better to do. What follows is a series of scenes with each past girlfriend, during which their interactions with Don tell us heaps about their relationship back when they were dating. Some are affectionate, some are distant, one is downright scarily angry, but all are played beautifully by a quartet of actresses: Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.
This is Jarmusch, so there aren't necessarily any tidy answers, and I don't think I give anything away by saying that the mystery is never solved. Life is messy, and it doesn't always happily resolve itself just because we want it to. I liked how subtle the film was; Don doesn't make any huge ground-breaking discoveries about himself, but nevertheless you sense that he's a slightly different person after his journey than he was before it.
You'll have to be patient, as Jarmusch tells his story very slowly, and nearly all of Don's interaction with others is ponderously awkward. But the movie slowly begins to fascinate, and you find yourself watching the faces of the women he visits (and examining the visible details of their lives) much in the same way that Don is himself, looking for the slightest hint that she might be the one who sent that fateful letter.
A very fine film, poignant and sad in a rather obscure way, and one that stays in your mind for a while after seeing it.
64 out of 91 people found the following review useful:
Completely open to interpretation, 11 April 2006
Author: moonspinner55 from las vegas, nv
Whether it was (shrewdly) planned or not, Bill Murray has become one of our greatest cinematic resources, just as comfortable doing dry comedy as he is acting in a mood piece; his whole melancholy being has become perfect for avant-garde comedy, and this meticulously-mounted and shaded 'dramedy' is a Bill Murray vehicle all the way. The loosely-structured plot deals with calling up the past, which it says you can't really do because it's gone, and not worrying about the future because it isn't here yet. Murray plays a computer businessman, a committed bachelor and "over-the-hill Don Juan", who receives news he might have fathered a child with an ex-girlfriend 20 years ago. The film, helmed under the more effective title "Dead Flowers", is an unintended journey of self-discovery which is purposely incomplete but not pointless; the screenplay leaves the scenario open for discussion, and writer-director Jim Jarmusch structures each sequence in such a cockeyed way that we don't really know where the movie is headed. This is perfect for audiences interested in something a little different, and even if the pacing is dryly solemn or slow, it delights in being anti-formula. A very good film, difficult as an entertainment per se and often puzzling or obtuse, though it continues Bill Murray on the path of an actor of incredible taste, decision and consequence. *** from ****
107 out of 183 people found the following review useful:
Pink flower arrangements, 20 August 2005
Author: jotix100 from New York
Jim Jarmusch returns to the screen with an immensely pleasing film that
looks extremely simple, but in fact, it's what is not being said that
really is at the center of the picture. Mr. Jarmusch is one director
that loves to work with an economy of everything. His films seem to be
crying for a set decorator, but that is misleading, because it's the
simplicity that seems to work in most cases.
If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you should stop reading here.
At the center of the story is Don Johnston, whose name seems to provoke in most people a recognition by associating it to the actor, Don Johnson. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Don is a taciturn man, who when we meet him is being dumped by his last girlfriend.
Don Johnston, with his deadpan demeanor, appears to be a man that has gone through life on auto pilot. In fact, when he receives the letter that will, in a way, change his life, he doesn't even react. His solution to the problem is to show this letter to his next door neighbor, Winston. Little does Don knows, but Winston maps out a plan to get him involved in the solution of the mystery he is presented. We accompany Don in a trip of discovery to reacquaint himself with former lovers who might have been instrumental in sending the pink letter.
Thus we meet Laura, the closet organizer, a widow now, living with a precocious daughter, Lolita, who seems to have jumped from the Nabokov's book, in all her precociousness. Then, there is Dora, the real estate woman who lives in a development in which all the houses look alike. We meet Carmen, the pet communicator, a sort of animal analyst who has turned her love interest another way. Finally, we are given a glimpse of Penny, who couldn't care less to see Don one more time.
The opening sequence that sets the story in motion is nothing but perfection. We watch the fateful letter at the beginning when it's being dropped in the mail box right up to its delivery through Don's mail slot.
Jim Jarmusch, and his amazing cast have done wonders with this film. Bill Murray is sensational as the jaded Don Johnston. Once again, this actor clearly shows he is at the top of the game. Jeffrey Wright, one of the best young actors working in films and in the theater these days, makes a valuable contribution as Winston. The women in Don's life are fantastic. Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Julie Delpy, Tilda Swinton, and Jessica Lange are seen at their best. Finally, two excellent turns by Alexis Dziena as Lolita and Chloe Sevigny as an assistant to Carmen.
Mr. Jarmusch has created a film that says a lot about how modern relationships are being practiced these days.
72 out of 115 people found the following review useful:
Yet Another Catatonic Film by Jarmusch, 29 August 2005
Author: kaz1488 from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I just can't stand Jarmusch. He's under the impression that watching
uninteresting people do absolutely nothing is art. It's not art. It's
like sending my grandfather with a handi-cam around for a day and
watching the footage. Murray is a good actor, but any actor working
with a script like this would crash and burn as Murray did. People
claim to like this film because it's "the most
non-mainstream/mainstream film". Psudo-intellectuals are having a ball
with that statement. They love to think they're different because they
like a movie with no conclusions.
It's sad that the whole film was strongly pushing for continuation of the plot, yet nothing ever gets resolved. In the end Murray has no idea who his son is. There are so many different possibilities. I personally wanted an ending like Sideways. An ending where you know who it is, but there's absolutely no interaction between them, they just know.
But no, in the end Murray is exactly the same. Nothing happened...literally. People can say, "Nothing needs to happen". That's fine with me, if that's what you truly like to watch, but personally I'd rather not watch a film with literally no point, un-interesting characters, no chemistry at all and an excuse for unintelligent people to enjoy something that isn't a romantic comedy. Jarmusch will always refuse to have anything actually happen in his films...it's sad...maybe he's depressed?
Oh and before I forget...Jarmusch wrote the script in two and a half weeks. I'm sorry to say...it shows. The only films I can think of that were written that quickly and pulled it off were, Do the Right Thing and Reservoir Dogs. Do the Right Thing had an amazing message and characters you actually care about and Reservoir Dogs was a great character study with a REAL ending.
I do want to thank Jim Jarmusch though. I'm writing my fourth screenplay right now and I got so bored in the theater that I actually figured out how to end it. I got some good thinking time. A dark place, nothing going on, good combination for thinking. Bad combination for watching a film that's supposed to be very good.
90 out of 153 people found the following review useful:
one of Jarmusch's (and Murray's) best, 12 August 2005
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It would be hard for me to recommend this film to some people, even if
as a particular film-goer as myself it kept me in my seat as it went by
with its deliberate (or slow as most would put it) pace. For an actor
like Bill Murray, this is a 180 turn from his classic comedy roles in
Caddyshack and Ghostbusters (both films I love for his style of quick
witted, instantly quotable lines)- this time, as I've read, he and
writer/director Jim Jarmusch took the subtle, subdued approach of
Buster Keaton, but done all Murray's way. He continues the sort of
'phase' he's been in starting with Lost in Translation and going
somewhat into The Life Acquatic- now his is reactions which make up the
best parts, and the occasional zingers work well against the supporting
The reason one might consider Broken Flowers as Jarmusch's most 'mainstream' film is because it is filmed a little more like one, very steady camera-work, and seeming a little more like a Hollywood type film with the cast (Sharon Stone, Francis Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Jeffrey Wright among others). And the story seems like something one might find in a conventional romantic comedy- Murray plays Don Johnston (not Johnson, as a running joke in the film), a fading Don Juan type who is very well off but also rather isolated with himself. Around the same time his current girlfriend leaves him, he finds a mysterious pink colored letter in a pink envelope. Wright, playing an amusing neighbor of Don's, sets him up to go on a search to find the long lost son the letter alludes to. He reluctantly goes on the search.
What is interesting about a filmmaker like Jarmusch, with only a few others I can think of, is that his pace and style and way the film unfolds, my heartbeat never goes too fast or too slow with the rhythm, and it stays consistent. When the climax to the film comes, it's more contemplative than exciting. As Don visits the four women, who each give him something different to offer (if not answering his questions for the 'mystery'), the comedy kicks in, but as with the scenes with Wright's character Winston, it's not often 'laugh-out loud' funny, but the wit is there. Some of it is surprising (the daughter character, Lolita, brings a big laugh), and just strange (Lange's job as an 'animal communicator'), but it's often not so much about hitting for big punches as for more realistic ones. We get long (some might say too long) breaks as Don drives in his car, and then something more comes along. For me, at least, it was rather compelling in a minimalist way, which is what Jarmusch is a master of.
Some have said that the ending was unfulfilled, that it didn't serve a purpose and left the film with unanswered questions. I found the ending to really be even more fulfilling, perhaps on an existential or some kind of unspeakable level, than something that would typically be cooked up in Hollywood. As Murray stand in the street, the camera moving around him and stopping on him, it had me thinking and finally feeling some emotional attachment to Don. Early in the film, he's almost too subdued, and has an upper-middle class status that brings a detachment like with a lead in an Antonioni film. He says he's content with being on his own doing whatever, but by the end he has come full circle. Murray plays these last couple of scenes wonderfully, bringing one to see that the film is not about the usual solving of a mystery of 'who is my son'.
It's about searching, and finding a connectedness to people. This, again, may sound off-putting to people who just want to be simply entertained, and it may be boring &/or pretentious to the core mainstream fans of Murray. But his performance, and Jarmusch's direction, makes its best way in a realm of its own, taking a simple premise and giving it an original take, and substance, and a specific rhythm. In other words, Jarmusch fans need not be frightened that it looks less 'artsy' than a film like Dead Man or Mystery Train, and for those who loved Murray's work in Lost in Translation will find a similar wavelength to cling to.
54 out of 84 people found the following review useful:
Broken Flowers: a tragi-comic visual poem., 6 November 2005
Author: (email@example.com) from United Kingdom
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Broken Flowers - Jim Jarmusch Jim Jarmusch writes movies. I don't mean
he writes screenplays - though he does. No, he uses images the way a
poet uses words. No waste. Every image carries weight. Resonates.
Certainly his two most recent movies, Coffee and Cigarettes and now
Broken Flowers are visual poems. Broken Flowers, unlike C&C is a
narrative poem. It is a short, beautifully composed short story with
Bill Murray's Don Johnston - with a 't' - at its heart.
In a sadly now lost interview, Steve McQueen once said a man should feel as much as possible and show as little as possible. This unfashionable conception deserves deeper examination than our contemporary conventional wisdom is likely to give it, but it sums up Don Johnston literally to a 't'. However subtle, Bill Murray's humour is delightfully accessible. The deeper emotions of his more serious characters are harder to read. And his extraordinary, almost unique 'innerness' as an actor makes you work hard. In a superb performance in an excellent film, it is a fine judgement as to whether he might have given us just a little bit more colour and shading. We can see only too well why the women in his life kept leaving him but he makes us work a bit to see why they would have been with him in the first place. Murrray has cornered the market in men who can give but not take - Bob Harris in Lost In Translation and now Don Johnston in Broken Flowers. In a key piece of dialogue early on, as current partner Sherry (Julie Delpy), follows the other women in Don's life - out of it - he asks "what do you want Sherry?" She replies "what do you want Don?" And he's stumped. One feels Sherry would settle for any answer but not for none.
When he receives an unsigned letter from an ex-girlfriend, amateur sleuth neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) cajoles Don onto a reverse road trip of his life. The distinctive typed missive, addressed in red writing on a pink envelope, excites Winston's forensic aspirations and informs Don that his hitherto unmarried, unparented life actually created an unknown son 20 years ago, For Winston this is an intriguing mystery to be unravelled. For a reluctant Don it draws him into revisiting his former selves through the women he once either loved, or bedded; or (it is left unclear), perhaps both.
Broken Flowers, although like C&C, visually poetic in form and style, is more short story in content. So simple, pared down and explicitly existential in spirit, it brings Camus to mind. Pretentious thought that may sound, Jarmusch's poetic visual style has all the direct simplicity and philosophical resonance of Camus' prose. Asked for some 'fatherly' wisdom, Don apologetically replies, "The past is gone - I know that. And the future is still to come. So I guess there is just now." Outside the context of this elusive and allusive film, these remarks sound like a banal tautology. But there's the art. Jarmusch's art. His simple film 'language' resonates with feeling and, unusually for movies - ideas. Poetic. And if philosophical ideas seem a fanciful allusion for simple words, a remark of Wittgenstein's comes to mind when he observed that despite its apparent form, the expression "War is war" is no mere tautology.
As in C&C, but to a lesser extent, Broken Flowers has an episodic 'chapter'-like structure. Or more precisely, series of verses. And Jarmusch's cinematic style has a distinctive literary feel to it. His editing quietly 'punctuates' each scene and sequence precisely and without distraction. The full stops and commas of cuts and fades, provide a clear narrative structure, so that when the camera or the lens move, or the shot is held, it is precisely the contrast that makes it work so well. And like a good poet, Jarmusch likes to leave words, images and phrases hanging in the air. Unexplained. Unresolved. Jarmusch's great quality as a filmmaker is that his work is participative - a dialogue with his audience and their own experience. And like all good poems Broken Flowers will mean different things to different people even though its basic facts are not in doubt. In his art, the facts are the starting point, not the end. Want facts as conclusion, resolution - an answer? Try science. Or Hollywood.
Broken Flowers is, as the old saying has it, a mystery wrapped in an enigma: Winston's mystery - Don's enigma. Its ending is as satisfying, as it is unresolved. Murray doesn't so much show us Don's emotional life, still less act it, rather he lets small glimpses of it escape. His tears over the ex-girlfriend who died in a car crash; his sense of failure about Sherry; his warmth and understated friendship with Winston and his family. But poignantly, we see he wants to have had a son. Wants them to find each other. Murray superbly insinuates to us a man full of feeling who is bemused by his own inability to find a way to let it out. As in many of his characterisations - a genuinely tragi-comic figure.
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