Broken Flowers Need Not Be Mended
In Broken Flowers (2005), Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a white-upper-middle-class-America version of the classic character Don Juan. If you didn’t notice the name connection from the get-go, the film makes damn sure you recognize it within the first ten minutes.
The movie opens with shots of mail being processed, giving off a total Bukowski vibe. We follow a mail carrier through Don’s neighborhood and right up to his doorstep as she delivers today’s letters. A pink envelope along with what appears to be bills births from his mail slot and plops onto the floor.
Don, a single, childless fifty-something is sitting on his leather couch watching (what else but) Don Juan (1926) in his characteristic Fred Perry tracksuit. The dialogue offers insight to Don’s mentality, “Women and women and women, the eternal hunger of women for love.” Seconds later, we find that he is in the midst of being dumped by his latest (ex)girlfriend, Sherry. Noticing the pink envelope, she remarks, “Looks like you’ve got a letter from another one of your girlfriends” and sighs, “I just don’t think I want to be in a relationship with an over-the-hill Don Juan anymore.” He then George-Michaels onto the couch and sleeps until the next day when he’s woken up by a call from his neighbor, Winston, requesting computer help.
Chez Winston, he finally opens the pink envelope. Inside, a typewritten letter. Ironic for a man who we come to find has made his fortune on “computers.” The letter, penned by a former anonymous flame, informs him that he has a son somewhere out in the world. Urged by amateur-sleuth Winston to find out who sent the letter, Don sets out on a cross-country journey to revisit girlfriends past.
Director Jim Jarmusch, who looks like a morning-after Karl Lagerfeld, has been quoted as saying, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels you imagination … and don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.” And that is exactly what Jarmusch has done with this film. Some frames are so perfectly symmetrical that you’ll swear you’re watching a Wes Anderson flick. The soundtrack, including Don’s characteristic “There Is an End” by the Greenhomes feat. Holly Golightly, is reminiscent of a Tarantino film. More than that, Don’s meetups with Winston at a local diner call Pulp Fiction to mind.
Production company Focus Features is no stranger to Bill Murray or these types of plotlines, either. Two years prior, they released Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, which depicts two Americans and the bond they form while in Tokyo. The film, which stars Murray as well as Scarlett Johansson, possesses the same open-ending as Broken Flowers: quiet, melancholy, yet a glimmer of hope for reunification remains.
Nonetheless, Broken Flowers does not disappoint. It’s got nudity, violence, mystery, a creepy Ford Taurus, dogs, and the long dull ache of failed romance. It’s a film that hits you right in the feels.