Broken Flowers

Bill Murray stares into space in Broken FlowersLost in Translation. Bill Murray stares into space.

Broken Flowers. Bill Murray stares into space. For even longer.

But he does it so well! The criticism I heard for Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers was that it was “more of Bill Murray doing what Bill Murray does”. And there are certainly a lot of long, actionless sequences in which he does nothing but sit there, staring into space. But for some reason it’s extremely funny. (Albeit in a quietly despairing kind of way).

The plot is that Don Johnston (Bill Murray), a successful businessman with a long line of women in his life, receives an anonymous letter telling him that he has a 20-year-old son he never knew about, and that the son is coming looking for him. Don’s neighbour, Winston, a detective-story fan (excellently played by Jeffrey Wright — just the way he handles the letter speaks oodles about his character), badgers him into setting out to find which of the five exes from that time is the mother.

Watching Broken Flowers is all about adjusting to the film’s pace and paying attention to its subtle nuances of character. Much of the humour comes from the mini character-studies of the women Don visits, as it is revealed how they have changed in the two decades since he knew them. Seeing them through Don’s eyes, as we do, they seem bizarre. But the main character study, of course, is that of Don himself, who is left, each time, seeming emptier and emptier.

Something best characterised by staring blank-faced into space, I think.

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