Broken Flowers

I used to live by a Blockbuster Video, and would hit it regularly to buy
used movies. I would buy things that I wanted to see, but hadn’t yet, with
the idea that it was too cheap to pass by. I likely bought a copy of Broken
Flowers around 2006 or 2007, thinking I would watch it shortly, but sadly
it sat on my shelf until last Friday.

The moment I started the movie I was captivated. You can immediately see
that the lead has his flaws, but you sense that there is a gentle heart
buried in his listless nature. Bill Murray’s Don Johnston (no, not Johnson,
Johnston, with ‘t’) is a mess. He wakes to find his latest relationship
attempt walking out the door. Once alone he gets a call to join his
neighbors for a cup of coffee. On his way over he grabs his mail. While
visiting with perhaps the sweetest family in existence, he opens a letter
to discover that a relationship from twenty years back spawned a son. A son
that is presumably on his way to meet him, though the mother had given the
son next to no information about his father. The letter is typed and
unsigned, the stamping too light to read, and contains almost no clues to
the identity of the sender.

Don’s neighbor Winston pushes him to search out his former loves and
confront them, to learn about his (until now) unknown son. Through some
grudgingly given information, Winston sets up a full itinerary to travel
and speak with each of these women. He also provides him with a mixed CD
for the road. (I immediately bought the soundtrack to this movie. It’s just
so good, moody and jazzy; it’s a wonderful accompaniment to this
character’s cross-country journey.)

You travel with him, from woman to woman. There are four different homes
visited for five different women. You meet Sharon Stone’s Laura, with her
aptly named daughter Lolita. You cringe eating dinner with Frances Conroy’s
Dora and her husband Ron, the underlying threat and undercurrent of
violence during the meal is stomach churning. You are both attracted to,
yet confused by Jessica Langes’ Carmen. And, in saving the best for last,
you are utterly confounded with Tilda Swinton’s Penny. (With a surprise
appearance of Larry Fessenden who I feel like I am spotting in everything

This movie is all about the journey. Bill Murray is heartfelt, yet lonely,
quietly trying to find his way. There is something almost old fashioned to
the transitions between the scenes, with their gentle fades. It gives you
time for little breaths to recalibrate yourself after each visit. There is
no real resolution to the movie’s story, but it’s a journey worth going on.
You feel like you are watching the performance just after the competition
where all the worry is gone and all you are seeing is their joy in the
performance. There doesn’t feel like there is a wasted second, there isn’t
a single ‘bit part.’

If you love character pieces and haven’t already seen this, do so.

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