Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

You know I love to tell my stories.  The year is 1985, the place is Manhattan, New York.  I’m a sophomore in high school on spring break with a couple of friends visiting my uncle, a Professor at Sarah Lawrence University.  He and his lady friend at the time decided they want spend the evening enlightening us with a film.   The ‘Terminator’ was out at the time, so that’s what I suggested.  These erudite sophisticates weren’t having any of that and instead forced us to walk 40 New York blocks to see some movie called ‘Stranger than Paradise’.  For this we missed ‘The Terminator’.  I hated you for that Jim Jarmusch.  As the years passed, I grew a certain fondness for ‘Stranger than Paradise’ and Jim Jarmusch, particularly his film ‘Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai’ with Forest Whittaker.  Unfortunately Jim, with ‘Broken Flowers’, my fondness for you is waning once again.


Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, with a t, an aging lothario who spends most of days detached from life.  One day he receives and letter from a past girlfriend with no return address alerting him to the presence of a 19 year-old son that he was unaware of and who is on the road looking for his father.  Don’s meddlesome neighbor Winston, played by Jeffrey Wright, arguably the greatest actor of his generation, decides to help Don find the source of this mysterious letter.  Winston, being a fan of crime novels, fancies himself a bit of a sleuth.  So armed with few clues and list of four girlfriends Don had twenty years ago, Winston sends Don on a scavenger hunt to meet these women and attempt to discern which one of them sent the letter, and may be the mother of this possible child. 

Aside from being dreadfully dull, the inherent flaw in the plot is that Don visits these women he hasn’t seen in twenty or so years looking for ‘clues’.  Do they have a typewriter?  Do they use pink stationary?  We need a handwriting sample!  Wouldn’t it have been simpler to simply ask ‘Did you send me this letter?’  ‘Did we have a child

together?’ ‘No?’  ‘Sorry for bothering you.’  Of course this would have shaved forty minutes off the movie, which was already padded with long scenes of Don staring out windows, driving down country roads and watching TV.


The movie definitely wasn’t saddled by its stellar cast.  The afore mentioned Jeffrey Wright, Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny and Francis Conroy from ‘Six Feet Under’ were excellent in their limited scenes.  It is our Star that unfortunately let’s us down.  What exactly did these women see in this supposed ‘Don Juan’?  He’s completely lacking in charm, wit and emotion.  Mr. Murray’s hang dog delivery and stoic personality, which worked so well in ‘Lost in Translation’ and ‘Rushmore’, falls completely flat here and is totally out of place.  And perhaps it is by design, but Don Johnston starts the movie as a vacuous shell, and pretty much ends the movie the same, growing not an inch.  Again, maybe it’s supposed be that way, but it didn’t work for me.


Broken Flowers may appeal to the hardcore Jarmusch lovers out there, but it left me shivering in the cold.  I still look forward to the next one however.  Do me right  next time Jim, do me right.


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