Jim Jarmusch’s latest, Broken Flowers, has been described as his most commercial project yet -- and that just makes the so-indie-he-just-can’t-indulge-the-masses director “cringe,” as reported by Newsday. “I almost feel like if too many people like the film, it might freak me out. I might think I did something wrong,” said Jarmusch. “I don't think too many people will like it because it's too open-ended, it doesn't resolve, there's no pyrotechnics, it's very slow moving...I'm probably safe." So far, critics and moviegoers seem to enjoy the film’s "fairly accessible" storyline and we just might have to throw Jarmusch a full blown pity-party.
The minimalist, nearly-surreal film, follows a grumpy middle-aged lothario named Don Johnston, (Bill Murray, whom Jarmusch specifically wrote the role for), who has just been left by his girlfriend (Julie Delpy) as he puts little, if any, resistance. As she exits, Don finds a mysterious pink letter written from an anonymous woman claiming to have had his child 19 years ago and what’s more, this child might be out looking for him. Apathetic and weary, Don finds himself urged to visit each of the women he bedded by his enthusiastic Sherlock-Holmes-wannabe neighbor (played terrifically by Jeffrey Wright).
In an almost zombie-like haze, Don pessimistically arrives unannounced with pink flowers at four ex-lovers – a sensual and widowed closet coordinator (Sharon Stone), former hippie turned bland real estate developer (Frances Conroy), an animal communicator (Jessica Lange), and an angry biker chic (Tilda Swinton) - as the audience plays like a fly on the wall (not one scene is Murray-less). The movie is full of awkward, realistic moments and humorous banter, as each woman reacts very differently to not only seeing Don, but answering his investigative questions as well. Jarmusch admits several scenes reek of cliché (character crying in the rain at the cemetery, French girlfriend named “Sherry” etc) but that he tried to subvert them, "having many intentional clichés add up to something not predictably clichéd."
This absorbing comedic-drama starts slowly, but soon develops into a steady portrait of loss, hope, loneliness, emotional frailty and continues at a steady pace, introducing the audience to the characters’ surroundings and effectively illustrating this aging “Don Juan’s” solitude. The audience searches for clues along with Don, who moves between apathy and subdued emotion as he continuously tries to solve who might be the mother. As usual, Murray’s effortless charm colors what would otherwise be rather boring scenes of little dialogue and action. What most films can’t get away with, Murray can. He’s compelling even while doing nothing.
Though some might already be tired of Murray’s frequent bitter-jokester/ lonely, misunderstood-clown-on-the brink-of-changing role, we’d still suggest catching this movie. If you’re not a fan of slow & simple films (or Lost in Translation), or can’t see a movie where “there’s no pyrotechnics,” well then, Jarmusch would be simply thrilled if you didn’t see this movie, giving him the indie validation he so desperately craves (we kid).