Bill Murray reprises his role as the professionally successful, world-weary, cynical romantic from the infinitely inferior flick, LOST IN TRANSLATION. His girlfriend leaves him on the grounds that he has commitment and emotional issues. He also receives a letter from an unidentified ex-girlfriend who claims to have fathered his child. Murray barely reacts to these events - his ennui prevents him from doing anything more positive than drifting to his neighbour's house for morning coffee. Indeed, Murray spends much of the film reacting obliquely to increasingly strange things happening to him. Therein lies the comedy. When a butt-naked teenage girl called Lolita walks past him, he wears a bemused smile. The "WTF?!" reaction we have is distilled into a slightly raised eyebrow. Brilliant.
Luckily for Murray, his neighbour Winston, played with great comic dash by Jeffrey Wright, is on hand to play amateur detective*, and sends Murray on a road-trip to visit all his ex-es and find his son. Wright's character, Winston, is the kind of stand-up family guy who reassures his kids that he isn't smoking tobacco but 'cheeba, and who always has a magnifying glass to hand. He genuinely cares that Murray should get ot of his funk. Anyhoo, Murray goes travelling; strange stuff happens. Maybe he meets his son, maybe he learns something about himself, maybe not. This is not the kind of film where you get trite answers. At the end of the movie, all that Murray's character can cobble together from his experience is that: "The past is gone, I know that. The future isn't here yet, whatever it's going to be. So, all there is, is this. The present. That's it."
What does Jim Jarmusch bring to his mix, apart from his genius in writing the part for Murray and the wry dialogue? Every single inch of every frame of this flick is wonderfully cosntructed. The production design, the positioning of the props, the camera angle - everything is just right. For instance, there is one scene where Murray is sitting alone looking mournful on a chi-chi designer couch in his well-appointed house. On the coffee table in front of him is a bottle of Moet and a full glass. Marvin Gaye is playing in the background. You don't get more tragic.
BROKEN FLOWERS may not be all bangs and whistles - and it may not have answers to all the key questions of life - but it does make you smile an awful lot. You can't say fairer than that.
BROKEN FLOWERS won the Grand Prix at Cannes 2005. It went on cinematic release in Autumn 2005 and is now available on DVD.