music friday: carla thomas
in my life: baseball, 1953-present

by request: broken flowers (jim jarmusch, 2005)

This is on my list of requests … says Robert Gable requested it … but I can’t find the request anywhere. Well, I watched it anyway, so here goes.

Jim Jarmusch has made more than a dozen movies, but this is the first one I’ve ever seen. I remember when Stranger Than Paradise came out, the trailer showed up seemingly every time I went to the movies. I’ll never get the sound of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins out of my mind … whenever I hear “I Put a Spell on You”, I think of that damn trailer. And I think that’s why I never saw any of Jarmusch’s movies … the trailer irritated me.

Now I’ve seen one, but I have no idea how typical it is, how cleanly it fits into the Jarmusch oeuvre. I have to take it on its own.

Bill Murray has had an interesting career. In his early comedic roles, he was wild, even anarchic, a smart-ass even when he was playing dumb. As he has grown into dramatic roles, his style has done a complete flip. He is known for his silent, deadpan approach, and somehow, he manages to make us see emotion in his mostly unchanging face. (He once said, “I hate to give away my secrets but I do almost nothing. Being slightly lazy works for me.”) It definitely works in Broken Flowers, where he conveys an inner dissatisfaction without seeming to try. The structure of the film helps, as Murray is given the chance to work with various women who present wonderful contrasts to his blankness. Sharon Stone is charmingly hot, Frances Conroy allows an inward impishness to peek out from her serious demeanor (much like Murray does throughout), Jessica Lange makes us believe she is an “animal communicator”, and Tilda Swinton stuns in her brief scene … this most recognizable of actresses here wears makeup to darken her skin, adds a long-haired dark wig, and looks almost unrecognizable as what appears to be a biker chick. Toss in Julie Delpy, who I always love even when she is basically making a cameo, and Jeffrey Wright, solid as always, and you have acting that is a joy to watch.

Jarmusch’s style matches Murray’s underplaying. From what I understand of Jarmusch’s work, this is standard for him. Many noted that Murray was in fact a perfect match for Jarmusch. I felt that it was a bit much … it was never boring, and the basic narrative (Murray searching out old girlfriends) added a bit of propulsion, but too often, Broken Flowers just sits there. Charmingly, but uneventful. And the plot is something of a shaggy dog story, which throws attention back on the characters, and the actors are worthy of that attention, but ultimately, I found the film to be more an actor’s showcase than a movie I might love some day. 7/10.

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