DVD Review: Broken Flowers

Posted in Reviews on April, 27 2006 11:25 AM

Broken FlowersStarring: Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange
Cert: 15

Don Johnston (Murray) is an ageing lothario. He made a lot of money in 'computers' and now spends his time bouncing from woman to woman whilst eking out a seemingly meaningless life.

Then, just as his current girlfriend walks out on him a pink envelope is posted through his door. Typed on the pretty stationery is an anonymous message stating that the author is an ex-girlfriend and that he has a 19 year old son who may be on a journey to try to find him.

Don tries to be nonchalant about it but his friend's (Wright) interest and amateur sleuthing nags at his troubled conscience; he has a progeny.

His friend manages to extract a list from Don consisting of five potential 'suspects' (one of whom is dead) and then plots a road trip. The plan being to revisit his past and, if the truth does not present itself, look for clues as to the identity of the mystery woman.

Still unconvinced but, with nothing better to do, Don heads off with each reencounter stirring old memories, fanning old emotions and revealing elements of his old life both good and bad.


Jim Jarmusch has to be an acquired taste at the best of times. His films are arguably seminal, thoughtful whilst still being self aware - a mirror placed in front of life.

But, like I said, this is all arguable. For all the above could easily be defined by the other side of the coin as self indulgent, pretentious and boring. Where someone may see the wit behind two people discussing the profundities of coffee and cigarettes someone else just sees two people talking about nothing with, eventually, nothing actually happening as a result.

Broken Flowers has been claimed by some to be the pinnacle Jarmusch's career but, I'm afraid, I can't see it. I rate myself as a fan of sorts having seen, enjoyed and own a number of his films (Down By Law, Night on Earth, Dead Man, Ghost Dog and Coffee and Cigarettes). So I was looking forward to this one and was not walking into it blindly nor with the anticipation of it being an atypical Bill Murray comedy. But then saying that, the last Murray film I saw was Lost In Translation which minded me of self-obsessed naval gazing of the worst kind.

Anyway, the overall problem I found with Broken Flowers was that it upped the 'not very much happens' stakes to 11 and stripped it of the customary verbal wit. Yes, there are classically Jarmusch moments when Don meets his exes and tries to catch up on their bizarrely normal lives whether they be married, mothers or animal psychiatrists. But there is so much time spent between each encounter watching the scenery roll past and lingering on Murray's 'Sad Sam' expression that makes me think either it's all so deeply profound that I've missed something or someone didn't anticipate the 'action' having such a short running time so padded it. Or maybe it's a celebration of Americana or something.

Then with an ending that completely goes of the rails into senselessness made Broken Flowers became a real disappointment. I wouldn't recommend it to Jarmusch fans and certainly not to the uninitiated.


(Not that it really matters but)
DVD Extras:
There's the obligatory theatrical trailer that makes the film out to be something other than it is. Also there is an extended sequence with a couple of 'OMG' girls chatting on a bus and a featurette on The Farmhouse both, of which, mirror of the content of the film.

Probably the most interesting extra is a montage of clapperboard shots depicting the film from Start To Finish interspersed with dry-witted Murray moments.

What would have been handy was if a director commentary could have been included to reveal what on Earth it was all supposed to be about. But then, I suppose, that would have meant sitting through it all again.

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