Broken Flowers. Directed by Jim Jarmusch. Starring Bill Murray Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, and whoa! buddy…Alexis Dziena.
Lost love. Lost hope. Lost hair. Guess this flick is playing to the menopausal Baby Boomers all in about the same boat as Don Johnston (Bill Murray who has constantly to advise wannabe admirers that no, he spells it with a “t”), superannuated teenager who’s by accident hit it big in some vaguely-delineated sub-sphere of the computer world, who’s got nothing to do, whose way-too-young paramour (needs “space” to “get her head together”) has just dumped him (his stoic acceptance of her departure reminds a little bit of similar scene from Stripes), and whose memory gets jogged into obsession with his past loves, past failures (essentially the theme of Hi Fidelity). So he sets off on a journey of discovery.
Now with that bleak synopsis, you’d figure the thing for an art house exile. If not, any way, likely should be. I’m still trying to figure out what the hell The Life Aquatic was all about… and why so many heavy hitters (Willem Dafoe, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum) agreed to be in it, so I suspect that there was a flick better shown to audience regulars at the Biograph. When the credits close in on you at the and you’re sitting there in the dark saying “What the flock?...” then you’ve got cinee-mah on your hands and not entertainment. Sorry. Onliest exception to that rule is Butch and Sundance (Thelma and Louise tried it, but didn’t work…).
What jogs Don’s memory in the event is a letter from one of his ex-girlfriends, partner in an affair now twenty years past, announcing that he has a son, whom she raised, and who has lit out on a telemachy (Greek for “Where was that wiggler when I needed him?”) determined to find dad. Neither Don nor his bizarre Nigerian neighbor Winston (Jarmusch is great for pulling at least one (Two)Third(s) World bozo with an accent for flavor into his flicks: did it in Dead Man, Ghost Dog, One Night on Earth) can find any evidence of origin on the envelope nor in it (weird: my mail comes in with only too many stamps, cachets, scrolls, dates, and issuing offices on it, but hey… willing suspension of disbelieve). Likewise, Don cudgels his brain yet can’t come up with which one of a stable of past loves can be the little mommy; he finally comes up with a tentative list of five mightbes. Strikes me that the time frame oughta narrow it down a little further if not the disposition of his partners to have/raise babies, but somehow this unappealing and quiescent guy has managed to have affairs with five different women in a fairly short span of time. To look at him now, one surely wouldn’t think it. And that’s maybe the message: either that we’re not now what we were or that women actually like the silent, moody twerps of the sort Don must have been as a young computer squirrel. Sadly, both of those deathless insights fall a little short of consolation, either for us old guys too late to be what we were or too dumb to have been successful twerps. Not the last of the mysteries here.
Anyhow. Winston takes the short list and chases down all the entries on the Internet, gets tickets, rooms, rental vehicles from Expedia.com (or whichever one it is Captain Kirk touts), and dragoons Don into lighting out after his son’s mother. Follows now a series of awkward encounters in which Don, emotionless, wordless, soulless to all intents and purposes, confronts his girlfriends twenty years down the road. Miraculously, they’re all Hollywood caliber (fading) beauties, notably Sharon Stone as a trailer park floozy, widow of a Dale Earnhardt look-alike killt on the track, mama of a burgeoning Lolita (kid’s name is Lolita in case you missed it, you dummy) played in the ennnn-tire precocious buff by little Alexis Dziena and worf’ the price of admission right there and Jessica Lange as a cat whisperer and author of a dozen spooky books on talking to critters, hovered over by ambidextrous (or maybe androgynous… always get those two mixt up) amanuensis (kinda like a secretary except Latin for “Legs up to here). No children, though, or at least not the right flavor. There’s the real estate princess, though, who peddles “modular homes” (trailers) and who lives in an elegant one. She’s never had time for children, though, as it emerges from the bitter husband during an edgy dinner à trois. A fourth former, now biker chick, throws Don out of her house to be pummeled by a coupla bearded, tattooed guys, one of them presumably her current mate. The fifth woman has died.
So, the great odyssey (kinda like a “search” except you find what you were looking for back home under the sofy) concludes with Don no wiser and with the cryptic introduction of a nameless twenty-year-old man who appears, he too, bent on finding something. Lingering head shot of Don in front of teevee. Lingering head shot of Don at dinner. Lingering head shot of Don at wheel of rental car. Lingering head shot of Don bleeding. Lingering head shot of Don in the middle of traffic. All the action, on t’other hand, takes place off screen: sex with Sharon Stone, pop in the eye by jealous biker guy. I don’t believe anyone beside Bill Murray could pull this off… and he better not try it again.