Was flipping channels on a Sunday afternoon, when I stumbled onto this movie starring Bill Murray. While I think that The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou is the best movie Murray has done post Lost In Translation, Broken Flowers was an interesting watch.
An aging Don Juan's (Don Johnston, played by Bill Murray) comfortable retirement is shaken when he gets a letter from an anonymous former girlfriend about a son he doesn't know about. More than Don, his neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) is excited. With Don's help, he draws up a list of women that Don has dated in the past. He then forces Don to embark on a wildass trip to meet those women and discreetly enquire about a son he might have had with any of them. Plus, Don has to carry pink flowers to all of them!
Armed with addresses, maps and a custom-written travel CD (which makes for some pretty interesting background score), Don sets off to meet his former ladies. And what an interesting trip it turns out to be! Don sure does have fine taste in women - a closet organizer (Sharon Stone), a former-hippy-turned-meek-wife (Frances Conroy), an animal communicator (a plastic looking Jessica Lange), and an angry biker chick (Tilda Swinton). While Laura (Stone) seems genuinely happy to see him, the others receive him with varying degrees of wariness. And the only woman that Don mentions the L word about, is already dead - no answers there either. After a fruitless search, Don returns home empty handed. But not before every he starts viewing every young man who gives him a second look with great hope.
The photograph above just about sums up Don's state of mind at the end - he's had a good life, great women, great career, good money, and that life is over. His current girlfriend (Julie Delpy) has walked out on him and he is left alone to ponder about a son that he might never know (or probably never had). In one scene, Don mutely reaches out to the young woman who offers him some sympathy and a bandage for his bruised eye (courtesy Swinton's jealous boyfriend). Don is so desperate for affection, its sad. Pretty scary, especially for one who is thinking about remaining single.
Bill Murray, who really didn't get the kind of roles he should till Sofia Coppola unearthed him in Lost In Translation, gives an earnest performance. The problem is that the narrative is so detached that he fails to strike a chord despite his best efforts. While one does develop some sympathy for the lonely old man searching for his son, it feels like watching someone you know bumble through something awkward. You just want him to get over with it so that he can be spared the embarrassment. Like I said, I liked him better in Zissou.
Verdict: Not bad.