A review of “Broken Flowers” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: R for language and nudity

Run Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

 

 

Bill Murray locks up a Best Actor nomination with a brilliant portrayal of yearning.

Don Johnston (Murray) is a serial commitment-phobe recently dumped by the latest in a long series of paramours. He drowns his sorrows with prolonged stints on the couch and repeated visits to best friend Winston (Jeffrey Wright), an ambitious, upbeat father of five.

Fate steps in and hands Don the proverbial twist in the form of an unsigned letter from an old flame informing him that he is father to a 19-year old son. An anxious young man who may have gone in search of his biological dad.

The exuberant Winston (an armchair Sherlock Holmes) takes Don’s plight to heart and researches his ex-lovers on the net, taking the liberty of Orbitz-ing an itinerary for a cross-country journey of discovery.

“Sideways” meets “Flirting With Disaster”, and how. Don is a self-proclaimed stalker in a Taurus, criss-crossing manicured estates and white trash ‘burbs in search of his past, his future, and an anonymous progenitor. 

Of course you can’t go home again. Don’s extemporary calls on his lady loves of yore (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton) are tinged with anticipation and regret, freshness and fury.

Maverick writer/director Jim Jarmusch and the unflappable Murray is a match made in heaven. Jarmusch has shed his traditional idiosyncrasies in favor of a more accessible and mainstream bent, an experiment that reaps delectably dramatic rewards.

Murray’s canny use of facial tics and pregnant pauses is sheer cinematic poetry. Emotion and dialogue are minimally crafted for maximum allure. Perfectly simple climax (long live the ambiguous conclusion!) renders “Broken Flowers” a wholly and ingeniously realized joy.