Broken Flowers (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna
Scoop's comments in white:
Bill Murray plays a profoundly depressed ex-lothario named Don Jonston. That name would be the English-language version of Don Juan. Get it? If you don't, the script will help you out with a scene in which the character actually watches an old Don Juan movie on TV. Ol' Don receives a anonymous pink letter informing him that he has a 19-year-old son who may be looking for him. Prodded by a neighbor who loves detective stories, Don decides to embark on a cross-country search for his girlfriends from that era, hoping to ... well, really hoping to learn something about himself, I guess. If he just wanted to know more about whether one of them could have written the letter, he could have accomplished the same thing telephonically, so I guess we can assume he wants to meet them face-to-face for other reasons unrelated to the son's identity.
It is an arthouse film which was nominated for arthousey awards, and won a special jury prize at Cannes. It's one of those films where the author derives some alleged humor by standing condescendingly above all the characters, giving them ridiculous ideas and outlandish professions. (Don's four ex-girlfriends are a pet communication facilitator, a professional closet organizer, a refined and demure seller of "high quality pre-fab homes," and a biker chick.) I believe the point is that your life is shallow and empty unless you are a judgmental middle-aged filmmaker. Bill Murray turns in yet another of those sad sack performances in which he plays a man with no enthusiasm for anything, no spring in his step, and no facial expressions beyond a single mask of despondent boredom. Within the spectrum of recent film performances, Murray is most comparable to Wilson the Volleyball.
It's the kind of movie that people either love or hate. If you have not seen it, you can read more about the movie from the many links below. To me the most incisive comment was the following:
Some trivia: Based on the extra features, the film seems to have been named Dead Flowers until the very last minute.
The following comments are really only for people who have already seen the movie. (If you haven't, you won't understand what I am writing about.)
Who wrote the letter?
I can't tell you that, but I can tell you who could not have. That can be done by applying the process of rational thought. I don't know whether this is a fruitless exercise. Some filmmakers are simply not capable of the kind of thought process necessary for logical plotting, while others are brilliant at it. David Mamet thinks about all the small details, so you can watch his films with the understanding that everything means something. Mamet, however, is an exception among directors and screenwriters, who are generally not the kind of guys who got straight 100s in math and symbolic logic courses. Antonioni, for example, thinks of no details at all, and when he is in the middle of a film he can probably not remember what he has already filmed nor what he has planned to film the following day. Given that approach, it is fruitless to subject his movies to analysis. You can't ask questions like, "Why was there no grass disturbed where the body was alleged to have lain?", or "Who is the man in the mirror?" because the real answer has nothing to do with the plot and everything to do with the fact that the scenes were filmed out of sequence, or that he improvised an unplanned body when the camera started rolling, or that he never noticed that the sound guy was in the shot. It is often hilarious to hear the explanations that Antonioni apologists devise to explain these sorts of things as if they had actually happened in a Mamet script, thus conveying secret meanings. "The lack of physical evidence means that the witness only imagined seeing the body." Yeah, right. Or maybe everyone's drugs kicked in a little early on the set that day.
At any rate, I have to admit that I don't know enough about writer/director Jim Jarmusch to know whether his work should be subjected to any tests of logical thought, but here goes anyway.
First of all, although the letter is unsigned, there is no reason to suspect that the sender of the letter was trying to hide his or her location. (From now on I am going to use the feminine pronoun to avoid the dreary "his or her" convention.) In fact, by placing the letter in a public mailbox with a regular stamp, she would have to assume that Don Jonston (Bill Murray) would know the location of the sender. It was merely happenstance that the postmark was too light to read. The sender had no way to know that would be the case.
Second, the letter was mailed on a very cold day by someone wearing gloves and a winter coat. Some of the trees outside the post office were completely bare. Yet Jonston received the letter on a late summery day. One of the bushes in his front yard was brown, but the trees had not yet even changed colors. Since the letter could not go back in time, it could not have been mailed from the area where Jonston himself lived. Therefore, it could not have been mailed by his current girlfriend or his neighbor Winston.
The logic must remain consistent. Neither Jonston nor the letter can travel backwards in time, and first class mail arrives in less than a week, so the letter must have been mailed from a place with much colder weather than the place where he lives. He first flies off to see Sharon Stone. It is summery there. Stone's daughter is walking outside in a bikini. They eat on the porch at night. This can't be the location from which the letter was sent.
The same is true of Don's next stop to see the real estate agent. It's late summer or very early autumn. 99% of the trees are green, with only a hint of autumnal foliage. Roadside wagons are vending food to be consumed at outdoor picnic tables. Same thing again when he visits the "animal communicator" - a lush and verdant summer blooms everywhere.
That leaves only one possibility: the tough-ass
biker chick. Her farmhouse is in the right climate (see the photograph
to the right), and she is the type who would wear the kind of unfeminine overcoat
and gloves worn by the sender. I can't imagine that she would be the type
of woman to send a considered and thought-provoking letter on pink
stationary, but if she had done so, it could explain her intense
reaction to the question, "Do you have a son?" (One thinks
she does have a son, given the basketball hoop seen in the picture.)
The basic answer is that the biker chick is the only person who could have sent the letter, at least from among the possibilities we know. The "correct" answer might also be that the letter was sent by a woman Don has forgotten and who does not appear on his list.
By the way, the kid in the car in the final scene, the one whose gaze follows Don for as long as possible, might well be his son, given the fact that the role is played by Homer Murray, the real-life son of actor Bill Murray.
Tuna's comments in yellow:
Broken Flowers is an "art house" film starring a
clinically depressed, and equally depressing, Bill Murray. I have some
trouble understanding why someone would take a brilliant comedic actor
and make him the straight man to a variety of zany characters, but at
any rate, Murray slinks through the entire film as if he is on a general
anesthesia. He is a Don Juan. I am not sure why this is important, but
the film maker has him watching Don Juan on TV, and his neighbor calls
him a Don Juan twice. Clearly, we need to know he is a ladies man. It's
probably a good thing they did this, as I saw nothing in Murray's
personality that would make him even minimally acceptable to anyone,
male or female. We have to assume that he has changed, and that he used
to have a personality and a life, but we see neither evidence of that,
nor any clues that reveal what might have changed him.
Possibly it was intended as a comedy, because there were some humorous women along his road trip, but the mood was too somber to encourage laughter. I suppose the real genre is pointless art house films, and this one seems to be a favorite of genre fans!
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