Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch
On general release from 21st October 2005
The trouble with road movies is that as soon as you see the middle-aged
lead character behind the wheel, you know that he’s also going on
an ‘emotional journey’ to ‘find himself’. It’s
not always horrible, but you more or less know that the voyage will be
one ‘of discovery’. The problem with Broken Flowers is that
the missing ingredient in that middle-aged lead character’s life
will become obvious from the following plotline.
Rich but sad Don Johnston (Bill Murray) emphatically insists that he
is not Don Juan’s son, and that the extra ‘t’ is always
pronounced. However, his latest casual girlfriend (Julie Delpy) is leaving
him because she thinks he’s messing her about and she can’t
be bothered waiting for commitment. The next day, Don receives an anonymous
letter telling him that he is the father of a twenty-year-old son, and
his poor but happy family man neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) thinks
that they can solve the case just like detectives in his favourite novels.
So Don sets off on that road trip to find out which of the women he was
seeing at the time gave birth to his progeny, and – of course –
the meaning of life.
Jim Jarmusch has claimed that the script took him a mere two and a half
weeks to write, and that shows at times. There are a few witty lines,
and the four female suspects (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange,
and Tilda Swinton) are interesting enough. Bill Murray is also excellent
in a role that was clearly written for him, but there are few surprises
and there is very little else to recommend a film that is far too cool
for its own shoes. I overheard someone calling Broken Flowers “stale
and shallow”. I couldn’t disagree.