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Buy from Amazon

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Universal Studios Home Video presents
Broken Flowers (2005)

"I'm getting into odd stories."
- Don Johnston (Bill Murray)

Review By: Jon Danziger  
Published: January 24, 2006

Stars: Bill Murray
Other Stars: Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Julie Delpy
Director: Jim Jarmusch

MPAA Rating: R for language, some graphic nudity and brief drug use
Run Time: 01h:45m:33s
Release Date: January 03, 2006
UPC: 025192847721
Genre: drama


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A- A-A-C+ C

DVD Review

Who ever would have imagined, in the days of films like Meatballs and Stripes, that Bill Murray would become the great screen icon of lost or impossible love? His performance here is almost a companion piece to his work in Lost in Translation, and his deadpan sensibility meshes extraordinarily well with that of Jim Jarmusch, who wrote and directed Broken Flowers. This movie may not have the downtown indie cachet of Stranger Than Paradise, and it's sure to disappoint those looking for a Murray movie circa 1980, but it's a lovely and unexpectedly moving journey.

Murray plays Don Johnston, and yes, he's heard all the Miami Vice jokes, for years—he made a pot of money in some unspecified aspect of the computer business years before, and now leads a bachelor's life of aggressive serial monogamy. We get the sense that his life has been littered with awkward and unsatisfying romances, relationships that start well and end badly; Don is content, it seems, to stay at home and stare at the walls, while wearing one in his seemingly inexhaustible supply of Fred Perry track suits. When we meet him, his latest lady friend is packing her bags, and the mail brings a psychological bombshell: an unsigned letter from a lover of 20 years ago tells Don that she found out she was pregnant shortly after breaking up with him. She kept the child, and now Don has a 19-year-old son somewhere in the world, a young man looking for answers of his own, who may well be in search of his biological father.

Don's only friend is his next-door neighbor, Winston, who holds down three jobs and is the father of five—the deliberate contrast between the two could hardly be more clear, and Winston, who has read a few too many detective novels, maps out a road trip for Don. Through the magic of the internet, they get the specifics on the four candidates for the author of the anonymous letter, and despite some of his own misgivings, Don sets out on a journey, to find out if he's got a boy out there, and to recover a bit of his past.

The stoic, passive quality of Jarmusch's movies is their signature element—if you don't find that endearing, you're likely to champ at the bit while watching this, though there's a sense, almost, that the filmmaker is taking on his critics, and setting up a story that's almost soapy. (There's a direct line between this film and A Letter to Three Wives, for instance.) But Jarmusch isn't interested in making a detective movie, and so the true pleasures are the odd moments full of memory and regret and anger between Don and these women from his past. The first, Laura, is played by Sharon Stone, with a kind of earthy intensity—she's a NASCAR widow with a randy adolescent daughter, aptly if blithely named Lolita. Next is Frances Conroy as Dora, whose husband, Ron, played by the wonderful Christopher McDonald, gladhands his wife's old flame while wondering what the hell is going on.

Jessica Lange is a pip as an animal communicator, whose cool is rattled by Don stirring up the embers; Tilda Swinton is Penny, who still brims with the anger of a decades-old breakup. And while Jeffrey Wright is winning as Winston, it's Murray that carries the whole movie. He's in nearly every frame, and the film in some respects is about the play of emotion on his face—a man who has spent his life in shallow pursuits coming to understand the mark he has left on the world. It's a performance full of painful, loaded silences, and it really is kind of amazing—and with each passing year, Murray looks more and more as if he's preparing to star in Pop: The Gregg Popovich Story. Jarmusch doesn't tie it all up in a neat little bow for us, and we'd probably be angry if he did, or even tried. It's a tale handled with grace and with delicacy, and ratifies Murray's status as a great screen actor, no joke.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: A good effort on the transfer, which allows you to tune in to the delicate shifts in cinematography as the movie unfurls.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The dialogue—especially Jeffrey Wright's—is occasionally muffled and difficult to make out on the 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Brokeback Mountain, The Constant Gardener
1 Deleted Scenes
2 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. soundtrack info
Extras Review: Meager, but not without interest. The deleted scene (01m:43s) is the extended chatter of two teenage girls on a bus with Don. Broken Flowers: Start to Finish (07m:40s) is an assembly of the slates at the tops and bottoms of scenes, mixed in with Murray's occasional asides and ad libs—we also see that the working title of the film was the slightly more morbid Dead Flowers. Farmhouse (04m:20s) features what sound like excerpts from a phone interview with Jarmusch, playing over outtakes and set footage from Don's visit to former girlfriend #4.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch seem to be operating in perfect synchronicity here, the writer/director providing the tone and the story for both Murray's hilarity and growing sense of dread to play out. It's not rolling-in-the-aisles funny, so if you need to yuk it up, you probably know where to turn; but it's got moments of great beauty and delicacy, not necessarily the words that first come to mind when you think of Dr. Peter Venkman.

 


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