Soon after the success of Lost In Translation and in between Wes Anderson projects, Bill Murray once again went down the indie route and starred in Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, an odd little movie about a guy on a mysterious quest to find an estranged son he may or may not even have.
Upon seeing the film back in 2005, I was hoping for a clever mesh of laughs and quirky goings on but left the cinema feeling way more confused than expected. Yes the film was funny and Murray's deadpan deliveries did bring the occasional lol here and there but this "felt" more serious. Throughout the film there's a nostalgic, passive vibe in the air which increasingly gets more negative in tone. Murray's journey starts off fun enough but by the end you really start to feel the emotional weight of his quest that's being carried on his shoulders. It should have been so straight-forward and yet every time he meets an ex wife to try and find out whether they're the mother of his son, it's an enigma and only raises more questions. Murray's character is encouraged early on to pursue such a journey by his upbeat, mystery-obsessed neighbour (played by Jeffrey Wright) but he doesn't seem all that bothered, even if in essence he is curious to find out the truth. The plot sees that character being sort-of dumped by a younger woman (Julie Delpy) only to then receive a signature-less letter from an unknown ex-partner telling him that he has a son. Wright's neighbour starts to plan Murray's trip from start to finish and the latter blindly sets off on an awkward adventure full of subtle clues and unexpected surprises.
The film is less of a straight-up comedy than it is an existential fable about digging up the past. The film's bizarre, enigmatic ending cementing Murray's character's philosophy that only the present really matters and that everything around it isn't real so shouldn't have this much importance. Each ex-girlfriend he meets over the course of his road-trip seems to evoke a completely different side of him and develop a character so seemingly passive he's pretty impenetrable. It's a smart flick but one that's so deadpan it makes Lost In Translation look like Pineapple Express. The rest of the cast is spot on: Sharon Stone's ex (with a daughter appropriately called Lolita) suggests a fun yet purely physical relationship, Jessica Lange's animal "communicator" is amusingly eccentric and Tilda Swinton brings a welcome burst of anger and bitterness to the proceedings. Broken Flowers can be alienating since it follows a man we know little about with a completely internal personality and asks more questions than it does answer any. It's a mystery wrapped in a big question mark so you'll either have fun dismantling it or you'll be left frustrated by its reluctancy to be completely open about everything. This is definitely one of those movies that benefits from repeat viewings so if you didn't like it the first time, maybe give it another go as it might surprise you.
Overall, I do recommend Broken Flowers: it's a somewhat morose, mature movie with a very off-beat outlook but it's an experience that stays with you long after watching it. Murray is terrific and Jarmusch's unique style is always worth it.
Well worth a look.