Broken Flowers (15)
Bill Murray adopts an extension of his well-worn world weary persona in this engaging and frequently deeply poignant portrait of a middle-aged man’s odyssey.
On the same day that his latest lover (Julie Delpy) walks out the door Don Johnston (Murray) receives a mysterious letter, written on pink paper, from an anonymous old flame. The message is stark: he has a 19-year-old son he never knew existed who might, at that very moment, be travelling across America looking for his father.
Suddenly Don is pitched into a cross-country journey of re-discovery as he tracks down a clutch of former girlfriends, all of whom have different reactions to him reappearing and dredging up the dim and distant past.
Sad, sex-starved widow Laura (Sharon Stone) has a jailbait daughter named Lolita. Starchy Dora (Frances Conroy) is married to staid real estate salesman Ron, who insists on Don joining them for an awkward dinner. Carmen (Jessica Lange) is an old hippy who talks to animals. And Penny (an unrecognisable Tilda Swinton) is an aggressive biker chick.
Then there’s Michelle, a warm memory and now just a cold stone in a sodden graveyard. “Hello, beautiful”, says Don, and weeps helplessly in the rain.
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch Broken Flowers is a simple story but one that is powerfully and unforgettably rendered. Like Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation it presents Murray with another opportunity to give a tour-de-force performance borne of those live-in, crumpled looks, that deadpan delivery and exquisite timing.
This is Murray’s film and he doesn’t disappoint. A story about miscommunication, vulnerability and the search for self, it says that it’s never too late to re-evaluate the past while warning potential seekers that turning over ancient stones might reveal memories they may not wish to confront.
A chaotic, anarchic view of what happens when equilibrium is upset, Broken Flowers is an examination of deep-seated anguish – the type of hurt that cuts so much deeper because it was never accepted until it struck home.
Like About Schmidt, which gave Jack Nicholson a road trip to salvation, Broken Flowers offers Bill Murray a journey with, ultimately, no conclusions. And in doing so it’s arguably the brightest and boldest movie of the year.
Star rating: *****