Come on Bill, cheer up. You’ll get that Oscar someday.
Don Johnston (with a T), played by Bill Murray, is a retired bachelor who finds a pink letter from an anonymous women saying that he has a son who is on the look-out for him. Don’s neighbor, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), somehow is able to get him to go out on the road and visit his past lady-friends and see who is his babies mama, and who isn’t.
Writer/director Jim Jarmusch has never been a guy I could fully get into as a filmmaker because too many of his films are just weird to be weird. However, this one is different from all of his others that I’ve seen and that’s a very good thing, especially when you have the effin’ man starring in your flick as well.
The film started off terribly slow with Julie Delpy just straight-up giving the low-down on why she is done with Don and it kind of lags for awhile after that as well which kind of bothered me. I wanted to know exactly where this film was trying to go and it seemed like Jarmusch just wanted to show all of these shots of Don being sad, bored, sleepy, and listening to some classical music all by himself in a very-dark room. The slowness in the beginning had me a little bit worried as to where this was going to go but then it started to finally pick up as soon as the story started to pick up.
I don’t know if anybody knows this by now but I have a total sweet-spot for road films. I don’t know what it is about them that just make me feel as if I’m on some sort of adventure with the character through everything and everywhere. The film started to pick up as soon as it started focusing on Don’s trip and then we started to see how Don inter-acted with all of his ex’s who, some changed, some haven’t. The writing is good because there are a lot of funny moments that are more dry than I expected and when it wants to focus on the total awkwardness that these meetings sometimes hold, really worked out perfectly.
My main problem with this film is that I wish the damn people would talk. Don is ultimately a very sad, slow, and quiet guy that doesn’t know what to talk to these chicks about other than try and snooze in the questions about whether or not they have kids, a type-writer, or pink paper. After awhile, the silence started to bother me because I know a lot of this material could have went a very long way given if the script wasn’t all about silences and awkward pauses in between conversations.
There were moments where I fell like this film hit the right note on being insightful. The film shows these women remembering him, and himself remembering them and there is always this slight thought going through both of their minds as to whether or not things could have been different given that they have stayed together. However, the contrived moments took away from this, as well as Jarmusch’s own weird way of putting his stamp on everything.
An example of Jarmusch just being weird to mess around with this story is when Don goes to his first house and a the daughter of the chick named Lolita lets him in to just chill. A couple of minutes later she comes right out to see him and is wearing absolutely nothing! Hey, I’m not complaining that I got to see Alexis Dziena nakey-wakey but to me, it just seemed way too weird to have in a film that seemed to really base itself on the real events that would happen with something like this. There were many more moments like this (well, not quite like this) but this was the one I kept coming back to.
Since Don Johnston is a very sad dude, the film relies solely on Bill Murray to play it subtle, which is something he can do perfectly. There is a lot of silence and pauses in this film, so that sort of takes away his way of improvising to the situations around him but it also gives him the perfect opportunity to create a very minimalistic character that I could still root for the whole film even though he didn’t have much to say. His character arc is pretty strong considering we don’t know much about this guy, but I felt like i really wanted to just because Murray can create so many emotions with just one look on his face. You can tell when he’s happy, sad, or just plain and simply hangin’ out being Bill Murray.
Jeffrey Wright almost takes the show away from Murray as his fun-loving neighbor, Winston. Wright is the total opposite to Johnston which makes him the best character in the whole flick. His performance is obviously a lot of fun and he brings a lot of life to the flick whenever he’s on-screen or talking on the phone to Johnston. It blows that he wasn’t in the flick some more because whenever he was gone, you could really feel the energy sort of come and go. All of Don’s ex-girlyfriends are all played perfectly by older actresses that somehow find a way to make every performance different for all of their slightly different female characters that show a lot of Don’s life somehow.
Consensus: Sometimes I felt like Jim Jarmusch just wanted to be weird for the hell of it, which sort of takes away from Broken Flowers, but Bill Murray’s subtle and understated performance breathes life into this main character and gives us an insightful, sometimes funny, and sometimes dramatic original story.