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Broken Flowers (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Well, it’s probably unfair for me to review this movie. When I went to the screening I was listening to an audio book of “His Majesty, George Washington.” Unlike “Broken Flowers,” the book is interesting.

As far as I’m concerned, “Lost in Translation” (2003) was the worst thing that ever happened to Bill Murray’s career. He was no great shakes as an actor before, but when director Sofia Coppola got her hands on him and convinced him to show absolutely no emotion, and when he got an Oscar nomination for what I thought was an insipid performance, he apparently decided that was his meal ticket.

Here we have him again, totally emotionless. Don Johnston (Murray) receives a typewritten letter with no return address and no signature and no postmark, telling him he is the father of an illegitimate baby born 20 years previously. His neighbor, Winston (Meredith Patterson) is an amateur sleuth who encourages Don to go see each of his four ex-girl friends at the time to see if the letter is true or a hoax. So Don goes.

Writer-Director Jim Jarmusch starts the film with a long tracking shot of a mailman delivering the mail. We see him deliver it to one house and we follow him as he walks quite a long way to Don’s house to deliver his mail. This slow, uninvolving scene is an appropriate prelude to what follows.

Jarmusch gives us many shots of Don sitting and thinking. Sorry, but I can’t call that compelling movie making.

We are asked to believe that Don was a real stud. If so, women are more messed up than I thought. Don has nothing (nothing visible, anyway) to offer anybody in a relationship. He’s not particularly good looking and he’s got a personality that would make a wall look like Robin Williams. Yet all the women with whom he has been involved are attractive. Not only that, they appear to be 20 years younger than Don. So if this affair was 20 years ago, they would have been teenagers while Don was, what, 40?

If you liked Murray in “Lost in Translation,” you’ll like this. If you are like me and you aren’t enthralled by someone showing no emotion whatsoever, you won’t.

July 1, 2005