By Wayne Aronsen | Images property of Focus Features
Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch have created a new genre in America cinema: minimalist humor. Europeans (especially the French) have been doing it for years. We can stare at Don Johnston's (Murray) empty face for an entire scene without dialogue-there actually is one where he stares at a bottle of champagne and an untouched, full glass-and enjoy it. What does that say about us ?
"Lost in Translation" prepared us. "Broken Flowers" takes us to another level.
Broken Flowers Movie Review
Don's neighbor, Winston (Jeffrey Wright) is the instigator after a mysterious letter arrives for Don. Then begin the anti-depressant therapy for Don-Winston becomes his Welbutron and off he goes to visit ex-girlfriends -really ex- from twenty years earlier.
Conversation doesn't come easily for Don-a former Don Juan. The flame has gone out. There's now a popular technique in films showing the protagonist watching a TV movie symbolizing his own psyche-in this film- an old black and white film of "Don Juan" himself, ( in "Must Love Dogs" it was Cusak watching "Dr. Zhivago")
The old flames (Sharon Stone, Jessica Lang, and Julie Delphy) maintain that gentle, exquisite pining for what could have been that keeps the film afloat. No one actor upstages the other. Each scene with the women is funny simply in the absurdity of the situation.
There's something tender about an old tranquilized lion; or a retired, sad-face hunting dog now lying around the porch. Females seem to see the humor and pathos, judging by the laughter in the theater I visited.
Jarmusch makes this film more than an ad for anti-depressants. Behind the blank looks, the former Don Juan is taking stock of his life. Winston, his neighbor, gives him a cause. A search for a possible son.
The setting is unremarkable, the action, the same. But the characters will draw out feelings of amusement and sympathy mostly with their expressions; and that is pretty remarkable.