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Broken Flowers

In the latest directorial effort from Jim Jarmusch, Bill Murray gives us another dose of his Lost in Translation style persona while starring as the devoutly single and nearly catatonic Don Johnston. The movie opens with him being dumped by his latest girlfriend, played by Before Sunset and Sunrise's Julie Delpy (caution link may contain nudity). Shortly thereafter, he receives an anonymous pink letter letting him know that he has a son somewhere who may be out looking for him. Rather than just move on to another woman as he usually would, the letter, and a detective buff and internet savvy neighbor named Winston, convince Don to examine his past and see if he can't figure out some things. He's been told how old his son would be so is able to narrow it down to four or so women that could have been the mom. With Winston's persistence and travel agenting, Don finally heads to the airport and embarks on a journey to interview his ex flames. All prove to be very different, both from when he knew them twenty years ago and from each other. He learns that one is deceased but shows up at each of the other woman's doorstep with a bouquet of flowers and just sort of stands there trying to gauge by their reaction if they have given birth to his progeny. During the visits he follows Winston's advice by looking around for pink stationary or the old fashioned type writer that Winston decided the letter had to have been written on. If asked in, he usually has dinner and tries to scan the family photos on the mantles and question the women, sometimes directly and sometimes not, as to whether they might know anything about the mysterious correspondence. You'll have to see for yourself whether he ever gets a definitive answer but suffice it to say things are Jarmuschian and therefore, far from straight forward. 

One thing that seems safe to assume is that Murray must have been quite the lothario back in the day if these four are any indication since most of us remember, or can at least imagine, what Tilda Swinton, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange and Frances Conroy looked like 20 years ago. On his first stop he calls on Stone (pictured) who isn't home at first but her teenage daughter, the aptly named Lolita played by Alexis Dziena (caution link may contain nudity) is. Lo greets Murray as coquettishly as Sue Lyon ever greeted Humbert and proceeds to stride around completely naked in front of him talking on her cell phone. "Interesting outfit you weren't wearing before," says Murray to Lo once her mom gets home. He soon learns that Stone had been married to a now deceased stock car racer and both she and Lo guzzle pink wine and paint quite a bleak picture in the process. He leaves the next morning a little the worse for wear but with one prospective mother crossed off his list.

He next calls on Conroy (the matron of the funeral home in HBO's Six Feet Under) and doesn't get quite so lucky. It is clear she was once the earthy sixties sort but is now a successful real estate agent with a nob for a husband and an existence no less bleak but totally different from Stone's. Murray again gets invited to sit down and eat and listens to them talk and bicker as he stabs at his once frozen vegetables. He doesn't come away from this meal knowing any more about his alleged son then he did when he walked in due to the ambiguous answers and at table tension he finds within the suburban walls.

And so the journey continues with visits to Lange, who is now a pet psychologist employing Chloë Sevigny as an over protective secretary and Swinton who is holed up with some sort of biker gang. Eventually Murray, after being punched, stuffed in the back of his rental car and abandoned in a field, finally makes it back home with a black eye and is not all that much the wiser for his travels. He then retakes his position on the couch to sit in the dark and ponder in the same existential way that he was when the movie opened. He eventually receives another pink letter, this one from Delpy although it doesn't really explain anything so he wanders downtown where he comes across a twenty something youth whom he suspects might be his son and tries to befriend him. The film ends shortly thereafter with Murray spinning in circles in the middle of the road looking around the drab town. 

Like in Lost in Translation, any self discovery Murray achieves in this film he keeps mostly to himself and the ending does not neatly wrap up anything for the viewer. The journey is interesting for us to experience though and Jarmusch uses the usual minimalist dialogue and rainy gray panning shots to give the film his signature. And we'd also have to say that like in Open Water, the gratuitous full frontal nudity from Dziena (a young star on some current TV show) seems to come out of nowhere and adds an unexpected and memorable edge to a film that is well worth seeing even without it. Broken Flowers is also the second film in a row we've gone to that introduces a likeable sidekick named Winston.

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