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This week:
Broken Flowers

Filthy says:
"Do-it-yourself melancholia"

Broken Flowers isn't likely to appeal to kids, unless they are like I was at nine, pining away for what could have been at eight. I didn't start smoking unfiltered Camels until I was nearly ten, and it wasn't until I learned that my father took down a full pack of Lucky Strikes every day at eight that I understood the melancholy of missed opportunity. That I didn't black out after eating shoe polish until was nineteen never bothered me until I heard about three kids who would smoke anything--I mean anything--at sixteen. They had already smoked a tennis show when I was still in diapers.

Broken Flowers is for adults, either those who think their own melancholy or that of others is good material for entertainment. I generally do, and I generally think this movie is pretty good. Melancholy can be pretty damn funny, especially when it ends with someone falling asleep and falling off a bar stool. That doesn't literally happen here, but the figurative equivalent does. Bill Murray plays a wealthy former lothario knocked off the stool of complacency when he receives an anonymous letter from a former girlfriend. He learns that the son he never knew he had is on the road looking for him. Prodded by his neighbor (Jeffrey Wright), Murray hits the road to discover which ex is the mother.

Wright is an aspiring sleuth and goads Murray with maps, airline and hotel reservations. He looks up the ex-girlfriends on the Internet, a process I'm sure many of us are familiar with. I usually start with local obituaries, but that's because I'm a wishful thinker. Anyway, Wright even provides a CD of gumshoe music straight out of a David Lynch movie for Murray to listen to while traveling. All Murray has to do is show up and have awkward meetings with the old flames and see if he can find a typewriter that matches the type of the letter. There are: Sharon Stone as a stock-car-driver widow with a flirty daughter; Jessica Lange as an "animal communicator" lesbian; Tilda Swinton as a biker's wife; and Frances Conroy as one cheek of a tight-ass couple into real estate and superficial success. Apparently, Murray was and is a Don Juan. Or so director Jim Jarmusch's script has characters remind us a few times too many without ever really showing us how or why.

As Murray reluctantly travels, he discovers that while he hasn't changed, the girls he once knew have all moved on and lived life. They have evolved and grown in different ways. This triggers a new layer of sorrow for him. Rather than just being bored and directionless, he is now sad for the lost time. He doesn't know if the letter was a prank, or who it's from, but the son may give him some validation and direction.

For Murray it's the discovery of a son that cause us to stop and think about his meaning and worth. None of us sit here every day assessing the quality of our lives. That's because there's too much Must See TV to watch. In fact, there's a pretty fucking lucrative business in keeping people from thinking about their loneliness and failure. A week can pass, or a month, or 20 years before we stop and add up all the wasted days, the beer cans stacked in the bay window, and all the Hummels and porcelain penguins we've got in our curio cabinets. For Murray it's this son that snaps him out of his stupor. For me, it's usually the Jehovah Witnesses knocking on the door and waking me from my carpet-bound drunken stupor that cause me to reassess my life and start crying like a God damn baby. Where the fuck did my life go? Who is this chick on the cover of Watchtower? Are there a lot of Jehovah's Wtinesses that hot looking? But I like celebrating my birthday.

All the things we do to waste time or just get through the day don't seem like much. But those tiny increments of time are like the sum of nickels a lonely old lady puts into a slot machine; a fortune squandered. I don't know what the right balance of fucking around and being productive is. I know that some days I don't do a God damn thing, and other days I can't stand to waste time because the guilt of being uncreative is suffocating. I know I sleep better when I can be proud of something. There is a healthy balance, though, and the vast majority of us are on the wrong side of it. It's just that it's so Gad damned easy to be lazy in the near-term.

This thinking is sort of tangential to Broken Flowers but it's what I took from the movie. It's what it made me think about. And after watching it I immediately came home, sat on the futon and watched a baseball game between two teams I didn't give a rolling fuck about.

The scenes are generally elegant and thoughtful. But Broken Flowers is not a great movie. It's paced too slowly for one thing. Murray will get a shitload of praise for his performance here, but it struck me as almost nonexistent. Compare this laconic loser to the one he played in Rushmore and you basically have the same character: doleful and passive. In Rushmore, though, he wasn't just deadpan. There was something in the eyes and in the small gestures that betrayed the intelligence and spark that was buried under the sadness. His performance showed where he wanted to get back to. Even in Lost in Translation it was possible to see what made the character appealing. Here, Murray has removed even that underlying intelligence and turned the character into pure undead sorrow. His performance isn't understated, it's unstated. And by the end of the movie, he's so withdrawn that he can't ever get back to a point worth caring about.

This also makes him unbelievable as a former or present lothario. As the movie points out, he has great luck with women. But why? What the fuck did he once have, or currently have that would make a woman want to fuck him?

I love movies that respect the audience enough to let us draw conclusions. But sometimes not saying anything is just not saying anything. Broken Flowers is so spare in emotions that I'll guess Jarmusch doesn't have a strong point or conclusion for us to draw. To some degree, he masks that with melancholy. Hell, if everyone is kind of sad the story must be pretty fucking important. That's a fancy indie movie thing they do to trick us dumbshits in the sticks.

Along that same line of thought, the movie is comprised of a series of meticulous set pieces. Jarmusch is more interested in the particulars and peculiar details of each scene to aggregate them for greater meaning. Scenes look great, but sometimes too great. It's as though the set decorator was given too much say in the story. They look more like sets than lived in spaces.

Broken Flowers is an interesting movie, and a decent one. But it's not just Bill Murray's character you want to kick in the nuts and say "Snap out of it, you fucking pussy!" It's the whole damn movie. Three Fingers for Broken Flowers.


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Shawn Edwards of Fox TV

The Great Raid is "More compelling than Saving Private Ryan. Intelligent and inspiring!"

In Bad News Bears "Billy bob Thornton is a laugh riot!"

Filthy's Reading
Jake Morrissey - The Genius in the Design

Listening to
The Hives - Tyrannosaurus Hives


Stranger than Paradise