Broken Flowers: Movie Review

broken-flowers-743241lBroken Flowers is a 2005 film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. I’ve already written a lot about his work which is so significant for American independent cinema (I reviewed all his films prior to this, and also The Dead Don’t Die, 2019), so it should be clear that I very much appreciate him as a director. Broken Flowers, probably his biggest box office success (grossing nearly $50 million), is perhaps his best known film and I only have kind words for it, so be prepared!

The whole plot of the movie is outlined in the first five minutes of the film: Don (Bill Murray) is rich and lives in quiet retirement. One day his young girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy) leaves him and, immediately afterwards, Don receives a strange letter claiming that he has a nineteen-year-old son who might be looking for him. Having been a great libertine when he was young, he’s not sure who the mother may be, but thanks to the help of his neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), he embarks on a journey that takes him to visit five potential candidates. And here I stop to avoid spoilers, but of course it’s natural to expect a series of surreal situations…

The stellar cast of the film includes Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Chloe Sevigny and Tilda Swinton, as if to demonstrate that an established director, however independent, can always count on quality actors and actresses for his projects. Bill Murray’s performance ranks among his best, so much so that he declared that he thought of retiring after making this film, convinced that he couldn’t do any better. He was wrong, of course, as shown by the various Wes Anderson films he participated in (and the cameo in Zombieland in 2009!). By the way, this thing about retiring came back as a joke in The Dead Don’t Die (2019), also directed by Jarmusch.

In Broken Flowers, Jim Jarmusch continues to show the US at the opposite spectrum of the American dream that he has basically explored in practically all his previous films. In this one, there’s a gradual descent towards the margins of society culminating with Don’s visit to the character played by Tilda Swinton. And even when the movie seems to show the perfect middle-class American family, that of Dora (Frances Conroy) and Ron (Christopher McDonald), one quickly understands how appearances are deceiving and what Jarmusch thinks of the US middle class! Perhaps the director is even too direct this time, not to mention the daughter of Laura (Sharon Stone) who’s called Lolita (Alexis Dziena) and behaves exactly like Nabokov’s (and Kubrick’s) Lolita!

In any case, the movie deals with the themes that have always been dear to Jarmusch and although it’s not explicitly episodic as the previous Night on Earth (1991) and Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), it basically consists of five vignettes plus the one that binds them together, at least weakly. Why weakly? Because Jarmusch had no intention of telling a story with a beginning and an end, on the contrary! He preferred to end it all with an in-joke in which Bill Murray’s real son, Homer, passes by and stares at his father whose character is looking for his son! In short, a funny ending almost playing down the various personal failures and tragedies seen on screen for almost the entire duration of the film…

Broken Flowers is a thoughtful but not boring film, it’s profound but not slow, and it is well interpreted by the whole cast excellently directed by an increasingly established Jarmusch, whose talent by that point was now recognized by almost everyone. I recommend seeing it without a shadow of a doubt, ciao!

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