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34 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2007
Is Broken a Dream, or a Place?

Broken is Dorothy's trip retold, with LA as Oz, as seen from Mulholland Drive. From the clean shining sealight of Zuma Beach, to the superficial artificial light of Skid Row dives and midnight diners, Broken follows the arc of a young woman from the Midwest who follows her dreams to Los Angeles, and almost lets her nightmares do her in.

Heather Graham is Hope, a young woman who doesn't think that Cleveland rocks, and goes west with her guitar in hand and a song in her heart called Hanging Tree. The sealight of California lights Hope up brown and golden, she looks beautiful and happy lying on the beach at Zuma, when she is approached by a stranger (Jeremy Sisto) who approaches her as if he walked out of the glare of a setting sun,. He asks for a cigarette, but Hope doesn't have any, she has quit, so he pulls two from his pocket and offers her one. The guy says his name is Will, and this gesture of his is more than a pickup tactic, it is a clue as to who Will really is, a clue that only makes sense at the end of the movie.

The yellow brick road that millions have followed to Los Angeles is lined with permanent detours and dead ends, and Will takes Hope by the hand and leads her away from the golden, dreamy light at the beach and down one of those bad paths, the path of heroin addiction which plunges Hope into a world of bad light, artificial light, the light of tunnels leading to hell, of dingy apartments with the light blocked by foil, to the light of a butane lighter, bubbling heroin in a spoon. The heroin that is slowly taking the light out of Hopes eyes and out of her dreams.

Broken moves backward and forward and sideways through time, but the real time of the movie takes place after midnight in a café where Hope scratches out a living as a waitress. This is the Blue Star Café in the movie, but those who know Los Angeles will recognize it as the Hellay Café, because the patrons that Hope waits on are everyone you don't want to become in Los Angeles: Jake Busey and Joe Hursley are sadly funny as two heroin-addicted losers who can't score smack or women at 2:00 in the morning. Jessica Stroup is beautifully sad as an Xd out Valley chick stuck behind two guys she doesn't like, and looking for salvation from Hope. Linda Hamilton is evil sad as a madame who plays on Hopes weaknesses and tries to lure her even deeper with promises of big money. Hope has already prostituted herself physically and mentally, for drugs, for Will.

Tess Harper is just sad as a homeless woman who seems to be able to read Hope's mind - and a reflection of what Hope will soon become if she continues with Will.

The other patrons are a wannabe producer and director - younger and older versions of the endless train of BSing hopefuls that pass through Los Angeles. There is a wannabe record producer luring three wannabe rock stars with promises of meeting "the most powerful man in Hollywood" at two in the morning.

The Blue Star Café could also be called the Wannabe Café, as it is a purgatory between the heaven of all that Los Angeles promises and the hell of broken dreams. Hope is trapped in this purgatory, at two in the morning. She is flashing back on her relationship with Will, a relationship that is more sex and drugs than rock and roll, a relationship that is stealing Hope's youth and beauty, and her dreams and self respect.

Hope is done with the relationship, but not Will. The homeless woman warns Hope that Will will be back, he will always come back. As Hope waits on the various sad cases in the Hellay Café, the clock is ticking as Will pulls his gun and steals cars and makes his way to confront the woman who has spurned him.

There is a weird tension in the Wannabe Café when Will busts in with a gun, threatening everyone. A lot of these people need killing - they would be better off dead - but Will ends up shooting the saddest and most innocent of them all. Jeremy Sisto plays a believable psycho, a common type around LA: the guy who can't make it, and takes it out on everyone around him.

Hope takes all of Will's wrath on herself, and faces her moment of truth, making a decision and with a loud bang forces the viewers to make up their minds about Broken: Is Will an addict, or is he Addiction? Is he a person, or a symbol? Did all of this happen, or was it all a heroin nightmare that took place as Hope nodded on a bathroom floor.

Is this whole movie reality, or is it, in the words of Dorothy: A dream, or a place?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2008
"Broken" at first, didn't make much sense, until I realized that it does not unfold in a linear manner. The jumping around is at times, hard to follow, but it all meshes together in the end. The best I can say without giving away the whole shooting match is that it involves a 24 hour period in the life of the protagonist, Hope (Heather Graham). Most of it, at least. For a great part of it, we see what she does when she's not dreaming of stardom as a musician, a waitress in a greasy spoon. The patrons of said greasy spoon are what can only be referred to as "hangers-on" and the typical losers normally found on city streets after those with a life have retired to their homes.

Hope has a boyfriend (though the "friend" part is questionable, at best), Will (Jeremy Sisto), a self-destructive loser type who is not beyond spreading the wealth. Hope's life is slowly being flushed down the toilet with Will's help, and one wonders if she REALLY comes above the downward spiral she finds herself in (I found myself cheering on Will, because at times, Hope is acting too stupid to want to help!).

Into this melee' are a barnload of what can only be referred to as "Hollywood has-beens". There is a haggard looking Linda Hamilton, as a "Madam" of sorts. A VERY haggard Tess Harper (who actually looked the part), and Jake Busey, who looks less like his father, and more like a low-brow neanderthal every time I see him. These are the denizens of the early morning Los Angeles. It amazed me how accurate their portrayals were, as I, myself used to live in L.A., and I saw these people every day, on my way to work! It IS amazing that young people STILL trek to Hollywood to be "discovered" (sort of the same type of lie that makes people believe that the island of Oahu is still a paradise!).

"Broken" is a sobering view of a life side-tracked by drugs, self-delusion and dreams of the type that make up the film's title.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2007
It's a sad fact that so many indie films don't see the light of day, and must rely on word of mouth to stay in theaters. Every so often, there's a film like BROKEN that must be seen!

This little-film-that-could had a brief stint in the theater, and is due for release on November 20th so by all and any means- check it out! It's a haunting drama set in the midst of seedy L.A., and both Heather Graham and Jeremy Sisto give the performances of their careers! In fact, the entire cast is powerful and effective. This isn't a film that you watch and walk away like it hasn't affected you. It permeates your psyche, in the way that a good Lynch film does. You walk away asking questions, recounting interactions between characters and wanting to see it again.

What I find most appealing about BROKEN is the feeling of hope at the end. You walk away knowing that it's OK to be where you are in life. Rather than rejecting it, embrace it! It's not an anti-drug film, in the conventional sense. Like Hope (Heather Graham) you sink into the dark abyss of self-abuse, you're not just a fly on the wall. Although there is much to learn, BROKEN is by no means didactic. The metaphoric storytelling, as well as the nonlinear/unconventional narrative is like nothing I've ever seen, and I'm an avid cinephile. The cinematography is eerie and atmospheric, with the shallow depth of field, you always feel like there's something amiss in Hope's world.

The film feels real, because it is! BROKEN is easily one of the year's best pictures, so get the DVD and watch it!
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2007
I was poised to not like this movie -- it's just not the sort of film that I usually enjoy... I will admit to a penchant for explosion man and cartoons, with the occasional bit of Shakespeare... so it was surprising to find in this film both intrigue and delight.

It's not often that the allegorical format, in a classical sense, is used this well in modern filmmaking. In so many current films filmmakers take us by the hand and lead us through one of the 30 plots they learned in film school. Is the film hard to follow at times? Perhaps if you are taking it literally, but on a more philosophical or even metaphysical level it is clear as crystal. The distillation of human longing an conflict and the personal nature of the characters, touching on so many aspects of human nature, speak at a deep and satisfying level.

This is truly an extraordinary piece of cinematic art. Well worth owning as it's the sort of film that will be fresh each time you view it and will bear many, many viewings.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 6, 2008
A dense psychological drama that packs a walloping punch in a short hour and a half, Alan White's "Broken" is a testament to anyone who has ever been caught at an unfortunate crossroads in life, forced to look back at all the wrong exits taken.

Heather Graham is Hope, a transplant from Cleveland stuck at a dead-end job as a waitress in a dive of a diner on the outskirts of Los Angeles. A struggling musician not completely given up on scoring her big break, the transgressions and evils that have colored her past come back and stare her dead in the face in one harrowing night before her shift ends at 6 a.m., forcing her to face the beasts within and struggle to free herself of them for good.

Chief among her tormentors is Will, her ex-boyfriend portrayed by Jeremy Sisto. Through flashbacks it is shown why Hope allowed herself to fall in love and trust him implicitly, leaving herself open to manipulation and heroin addiction. Fed up with the wasted days, she refuses to let her life slip by as a slave to the drugs, and has asked him to keep away so that she may restore harmony in her life.

Other demons to confront Hope flow like wine in the form
of customers she waits on. A pair of junkies objectifies her and switches focus to her addiction, while a brooding, mysterious woman sits on her stool perched and observant, clearly the product of broken dreams and grave bodily abuse - possibly an indicator of what Hope could become. Vulgar record executives come in with their budding new starlets flanked by emaciated musicians, only to order side salads and insist not on yogurt but "soygurt."

A brazen middle-aged woman even makes a sales pitch of sorts to Hope, soliciting her "services" to high-powered clientele - notably record executives - reminding her that there is only "a finite amount of time in a young woman's life when the cards are in her favor." It does not help that an ecstasy-ridden young girl wanders in with two unscrupulous men at either side, asking help of Hope when can barely help herself.

As she puts it, the circumstances of Hope's night are quickly beginning to resemble a "freak show." Little does she know that Will is about to rear his ugly head again, unwilling to let her escape from his grasp again.

Graham has a well-defined power that is subtle and dignified. Those only aware of her work in mainstream box office comedies need only sit through a few minutes of "Broken" to see it evidenced - she is not merely a pretty accessory to Mike Myers or Steve Martin, but a rich talent capable of becoming a story's centrifugal force. She injects her character with humanity, turning Hope into an everywoman the audience can empathize with. Sisto, who may run the risk of becoming typecast if he continues to portray intense, jealous types as he did in the late Adrienne Shelley's penultimate "Waitress" last year opposite Keri Russell, is also highly impressive as he embodies Will's one-track mind. With every fiber of his being consumed by winning back Hope's trust, Will becomes difficult for the viewer to dismiss, immediately holding a mirror up Hope's struggle to rid him from her life in order to get it back on track.

Michael A. Goorjan and Tess Harper turn in praiseworthy supporting turns, helping transform an ordinary diner into a virtual nexus of Hope's universe. It is a universe where her hopes and dreams collide head on with her deepest fears and basest desires, all ensconced in blue - a chilly, cyanotic, neon blue. Even the name of the diner itself is The Blue Star.

It's not the stuff of large box office grosses or coveted statuettes, but "Broken" deserves its place on the shelf. Moody and engaging, the messages delivered through its protagonist are universal and ring true. To move on, the past must be confronted, the slate wiped clean.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2011
Ok I "get" the movie and what it was about and the twist and all, but I still think it could've been executed in a better way. Love Heather Graham and it was nice to see Jake and Linda, but I gotta be honest and say that I was a lot bored with most of the film. Sorry I can't quite put my finger on it as to what I think would've made the film better for me, but I can say this...if you're a Heather Graham fan then you should check it out.

Does it suck that my favorite part of the movie is when the boyfriend tells the diner manager, "...You're not MY manager....", haha ohhh man that killed me!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 3, 2007
Broken tells the story of a young girl, Hope (Heather Graham), who goes to LA seeking fame and fortune, and doesn't, she meets up with Will (Jeremy Sisto) and they spiral down into self destruction, but Hope recognises she has to tame her Will in order to survive. We've seen this story told before but never in this original and fresh way. The lead characters names are a guide to the metaphorical jigsaw you start to put together when watching the movie. Yes you have to think to work it out! And no, not everything is laid out for you, but the characters and performances are compelling enough to take you on an original and fresh ride.
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I know I'm going to get some heavy flack for this review, but I have to be honest.....this film is not that good! I love little independent films like this, but I have seen many that are far better dealing with similar situations. The characters seemed cookie cutter to me and for a film as short as this I found myself looking at my watch....not a good sign. I am really surprised at the high praises on this site as I just didn't feel that involved. It's not a really bad film, but lower your expectations. While the acting is first rate the film is just OK and that's about it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 9, 2013
This movie is buit up of flashbacks through this girls life, it's a lot of talking and the only part that got interesting was towards the very end, when the story caught up to the present day. The price tells you how much this movie is worth, I got it for less than $0.50 and yeah, another movie for bad movie night. The actors they use are brilliant, they know how to play their part, but the writing and presentation fell flat. I don't recommend getting this, it's not an interesting watch.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2012
I understand what the filmmakers were trying to do with the non linear technique. It just didn't work. I wished I would have read some reviews from film critics first. I wouldn't have watched this if I had known how much I'd dislike this movie. Not for me!
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