Jarmusch has always been aware of the dead space surrounding things. Small epiphanies are buffered by long silences. The effortlessly paced Broken Flowers is a comedy that never mugs for laughs, a tragedy without the schmaltz, and most interestingly, a road movie about standing still.
Bill Murray is an aging Don Juan pushed into self-reflection after a girlfriend walks out on him and he receives a mysterious pink letter. He’s a man living with the contradictions at the heart of adulthood, the embodiment of dignified resignation. But Murray’s face, with its almost imperceptible smirk forming at the corners of his mouth, also suggests a man rebelling vainly against a larger solitude.
Receiving an anonymous letter informing him that he fathered a son a few decades before, he turns to his neighbor. Winston heartily organizes an expeditionary pilgrimage for Don that will take him to all the ex-girlfriends who could potentially be the mysterious mother.
The exceptional journey Jarmusch crafts surprises but also has a feeling of overwhelming inevitability. The lives we visit are permeated with the regret Don’s placid demeanor only hints at. Laura, played by Sharon Stone, is a white trash widow firecracker with a nymphette daughter. Dora, the picture of WASP repression, looks as if she’ll shatter like a porcelain dish at any moment. It’s both devastatingly funny and just plain devastating. By the time he gets to Penny, his charm has run out and his journey, fittingly, ends in mourning.
Unlike classic road movies which depict an America in flux, Broken Flowers reveals a landscape of static communities, clusters of quiet desperation stranded at the end of off-ramps.
Opens August 5 at Angelika Film Center