Published Aug 01, 2005It's a fascinating process to watch artists age and mature; in his doddering years, Jim Jarmusch, it seems, has turned into Sideways director Alexander Payne, and Broken Flowers is his About Schmidt.
It's a bit of a surprise to see the indie auteur, director of edgier fare like Down By Law and Dead Man, chronicling the tale of Don Johnston (Bill Murray), a rich but lonely bachelor who mysteriously receives a pink note claiming he had a son 20 years earlier. Don, at the behest of his sleuthy neighbour Winston (the awesome Jeffrey Wright), makes a list of possible mom candidates and, Mapquest print-outs in hand, embarks upon a road trip to discover the source and test the veracity of the mysterious pink note's claims.
As Johnston - in a role written specifically for the actor, as it seems everyone is doing for him these days - Bill Murray plays the only Bill Murray we get to see anymore: the melancholy, frumpy, tired Murray of Lost In Translation, Rushmore and The Life Aquatic. (Just a thought: we like funny Bill Murray. If you're gonna write scripts specifically for him, try that. That Meatballs franchise could use a polish.) Murray does a beautiful job transforming from the lethargic, passive, put-upon lover of one departing girlfriend (Julie Delpy) and putting himself into the imaginary future worlds any of his past indiscretions might have resulted in.
Into the waters of possible lives he dips his toes: the white trash, broken car on the front lawn half-life of Laura (Sharon Stone) and her tawny daughter Lolita (Alexis Dziena); the elegant, pristine and frozen prefab land of suburban conformity is where he locates Dora (Six Feet Under's Frances Conroy); in elegant, natural bliss lives whacked out animal psychologist Carmen (Jessica Lange); and in slightly scary backwoods squalor is Penny (Tilda Swinton). Aside from the powerful surge of delight in seeing these talented actresses get some good work to sink their teeth into, it's the cracking of Murray's stoic façade that makes Broken Flowers compelling viewing.
And in Jarmusch form, the journey is paramount. He may be telling more straightforward narratives, but he won't be doing them in straightforward ways. (Alliance Atlantis)