a commentary by Tony McRae

Jim Jarmusch is an independent filmmaker in the true sense of  the term. He owes very little to the Hollywood establishment, preferring to make movies that have few similarities with today’s blockbusters.  If you’ve never seen a Jarmusch movie you’ll be surprised to hear that “Broken Flowers” is his most accessible.  

It’s the story of a rich middle-aged bachelor Don Johnston whose girlfriend (Julie Delpy) leaves him at the beginning of the movie (1); that same day he gets a letter in a pink envelope presumably from a former girlfriend who says he’s the father of a nineteen year-old son who has left home to search for his father.  His next door neighbor (Jeffrey Wright) convinces him he should visit all his former girlfriends from that period to find out about his son and also which woman might be the kid’s mother (2). 

The story is Don’s journey as he visits these four women.  

Not much happens aside from his visits, at least not in the Hollywood sense.  But like any good journey movie, the traveler undergoes a change—and that’s at the heart of this picture.   

Don Johnston is played by Bill Murray who has turned minimal acting into high art.  There’s one scene in which Murray is in his living room mulling over his situation (3).  He seems incapable of moving; he just sits there and stares.  He’s probably depressed.  The camera doesn’t move either; it holds Murray for about a minute and a half.  The scene is mesmerizing.  I can think of no other actor who can do nothing and make it so absorbing.  

The movie is also funny, though not slap-happy funny.  The four women he visits are wonderfully right.  I especially liked his visit to Sharon Stone’s house (4).  No one plays brassy like Sharon Stone.  I’d give her a supporting actress nomination though she’s on screen for only a few minutes.  

This movie will get you talking.  And it will surprise you.  Expect Jarmusch to do the unexpected.  Almost every scene is different from what you’ve come to expect from Hollywood .  The way the camera moves or doesn’t move.  What is not in the frame, what we want to see but can’t.  

This movie deserves study--and a longer review.   

Rated R for language, some nudity, and brief drug use.





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