Frabjous Times


Broken Flowers (review)

Bill Murray has perfected the art of the reactionless reaction shot scene, and there's even more of this in Broken Flowers than in last year's Lost in Translation. If this approach annoys or bores you, this is not the movie for you, but if you like playing the game of guessing at what's going on from stingily doled out clues, this film will give up its rewards to a sympathetic viewing.
The central scene is the one between Murray's character Don and his former lover Carmen (played by Jessica Lange) who has a bustling practice as an animal communicator. He asks whether she reads the minds of people's pets, and she tells him that no, she just has an ability to hear what they say, when they want to be heard. As we watch this film with its long silent stretches focussing on Don's expressionless face, we try to work out what he's thinking and feeling, but all we can obtain is what the character reveals through his words, gestures, and actions.
I liked how the white bandage on Don's face in the last act of the movie worked as a visible sign of some of the soul-scars that were becoming apparent to him and to us by this time. Also, there were the broken flowers of the title wilting in a shambles in his living room, which for me exemplified the fleetingness of the moment, the "now" that Don hung his philosophy on when asked by The Kid.
Bill Murray's lined face and thinning hairline was reminding me of someone else for a long while until it finally clicked for me: I was thinking about Jack Nicholson in Something's Gotta Give, who played an aging roué. It must have been a surface resemblance, since the two performances are quite different and the two movies are even more unlike. This is especially apparent in the endings, which span the range between pat and un-pat. One of the other audience members in the little theater audibly gasped when the screen went dark just before the credits. Maybe she was thinking that the producer/director Jim Jarmusch was actually going to tie up the central question that propelled the plot.
Originally published: 2005/08/28 20:58:47
Previously published: Sun Aug 28 19:59:52 2005