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As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
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Top Customer Reviews
Jarmusch unravels the illusion of "Don Juan" as Don faces the fact that his past lovers are either uncomfortable with him or he's uncomfortable with them and none of them are forthcoming with any information as to whether he's left a trail of kids behind.
Until your middle aged and reflect on the past and realize the choices you've made are what molded your present situation, AND see that perhaps you could have made better choices, then this film won't make any sense to you. Jarmusch beautifully photographs (and scripts) the accident that is 21st century "middle age" for a man who's fought his way through a quagmire of womens lib, empowerment, equality, the pill, feminism and every other end of the 20th century battle of the sexes that has left the modern male alone, childless and confused.
Jarmusch's style is to just points his camera at the characters and let this reality unfold... subtly - and it's unpredictable, funny, sad, scary, absurd, awkward and beautiful all at the same time.
Like reality, don't expect a happy or easy ending. By the time the final scene rolls, neither the view nor Don knows if he really HAS a son or not, if he really WANTS to have a son or not, or if every time he turns around and sees a young man about 19 years old - is he going to wonder... is that kid mine?
For all around fun and unexpected surprises in human dynamics, Jim Jarmusch is a modern master. Plus he scores huge on three major cinematic points in all his movies:
1. his choice of actors with their dramatic and textured faces is always surprising.
2. his choice of soundtrack is always hip and cool
3. he films the US roadside like no one else
And like Jarmusch's other films, Broken Flowers doesn't disappoint.
Enter Don's neighbor, Winston (the very capable Jeffrey Wright). His life is 180 degrees away from his friend Don's. His house, bursting at the seams with his glowing wife and 5 children, is full of toys. Despite the fact that he has three jobs, he is writing a mystery novel. Don's mysterious letter (in a pink envelope) is a goldmine for Winston, and he determines that Don will pursue this mystery, and must provide a list of potential mothers - lovers from 20 years prior.
From the reluctantly prepared list Winston culls not only addresses, he mapquests the instructions to reach each house and books Don's flights and rental cars. Don is reluctant, but can't afford to turn down this slice of life that Winston offers. He embarks on the journey.
The movie breaks down a little for me here...the repetitive shots of Don flying in and out of airports get on one's nerves, particularly since Don never seems to go anywhere different. The five women are all located off the beaten path from each airport, and Jarmusch is careful not to identify the cities with landmarks. In truth, the scenery is so similar for each location (kind of an upstate NY-Jersey-PA small town trip) that you wonder if Jarmusch is making a statement about the fact that all of Don's loves have chosen similar scenery, or if perhaps the film just didn't have enough funding to make the womens' locations more diverse. A nagging point for me.
There's a running small gag about Don's rental cars and hotels...although he can afford much better, Winston has economized with different color Ford Taurus' and chain motels located off busy highways. The audience picks up on Don's silent notation of Winston's predicted clues; a woman who likes pink, signs of a young man in the house (in this case, the existence of a basketball hoop in each location).
Following Winston's plan, Johnston drops in on the four women from his past (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton). In these scenarios, Jarmusch focuses on the color pink...they color of the flowers Johnston invariably brings to each of the women, following Winston's orders, and the increasing focus on the color he encounters from each visit. Each woman is more and more intense, and each vignette turns up the volume on the symbolism of the color. Johnston is greeted unfailingly with surprise, as though each of the women knew that, by his choice, he would never see them again (out of sight and out of mind; younger women are available!).
These vignettes with the women shed some light on Johnston, but Jarmusch, I was led to believe, shot them with the focus on the women themselves, and not Johnston's reaction to them.
As Laura, Sharon Stone is lush and cheap- her daughter Lolita shows sexual significance and eroticism that the viewer believes she copies from her mother. Young Lolita shocks even the jaded Johnston. With only a daughter, clearly Laura did not send the letter. Laura's wantonness and availability lead Johnston to spend the night; a decision he clearly regrets in the morning. Stone is as "dead on" in her portrayal as an actress can be.
Frances Conroy, as Dora, shows rapid aging and deterioration found in women married to a control freak who successfully subjugates them without abuse or violence. Ron (Christopher McDonald, who has appeared in countless roles on TV), the monstrous husband, has her in a cookie cutter house and sneers at the picture of the young Dora in hippie garb and flowers, that she keeps to remind her of who she once was. It is unclear if Dora has a child...she responds that she has no children with Ron. Johnston is understandably uncomfortable in this house where violence simmers behind the carefully groomed shrubs and carefully groomed owners. He leaves after being forced to stay for dinner. Jarmusch again uses quiet symbolism in the food Johnston is served...it clearly reflects the life that Dora now leads.
Jessica Lange has always been a powerful actress, and hers is a rich role. An attorney when he knew her, Lange's Carmen is now in the field of veterinary medicine - but she doesn't treat the animals, she talks to them, and analyzes them emotionally. Unlike the former two women, the sense is that Johnston was deeply involved with Carmen, and that the regrets that they are no longer together are his, not hers. Carmen is an overachiever; she's bitter; she's removed herself from any emotion and she doesn't want to explain herself to Don. A malevolent force in Carmen's life is Chloe Sevigny, who plays her office assistant, and the guardian of Carmen's forbidding castle.
Swinton's cameo is almost gone before the cameras catch it, but in her desolate backwoods world, pink is startling and pouring out of nooks and crannies in the house and landscape. She's drawn by the site of Don immediately to anger and violence. The viewer is surprised, given her surroundings and her actions, when Don says..."you left me, Penny". Johnston is subjected to an attack by her friends, and finds himself broken and sad, finally expressing emotion, visiting the graveside of Michelle, the last of the women he identified for Winston. It's possible that the son in question may have come from the liaison with either Penny or Michelle.
There are a couple of dream sequences strewn in Don's journey, startling in that the viewer really doesn't understand what they mean or why they are filmed. As the journey proceeds, Don becomes more and more aware of young men in their late teens - the final sequences, which are frustrating for some(in that they provide no answer to the mystery), deal with his encounters with them, and his summary for Winston.
Murray plays his detached, nuanced character from "Lost in Translation", with perhaps a less effective script. Supporting performances are crystal clear and the players are visibly more engaged than is Murray's. Winston is a delight, and each one of the actresses must have yearned for the richness of the character they finally get to play on the screen in middle-aged cameos. Symbolism, as noted before, abounds. Sometimes it gives the viewer food for thought, and sometimes it just gets in the way.
At the end of the film (which has a subtle and fitting score), I was absorbed, involved, and vaguely unsure of why. I was also curious about why Murray's character gets so deeply involved in the quest for the young man; obviously, Jarmusch is conveying self-discovery, but there is no joy at all in the process, at least none on view for this filmgoer.
Jarmusch has created a successful film for small theater venues, and art houses, that is being picked up around the country as a feature film, given the success of "Lost in Translation". That's dangerous, because many will attend looking for Murray's comedy and grow angry at the "waste of film" and lack of action in what is really a superb small film. Thus, look for a lot of 1 and 2 star reviews for the movie, but if you are a serious follower of films that make you think, see "Broken Flowers".
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