An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

                “Broken Flowers” really is a conundrum.  Opening night brought eager moviegoers determined to like this movie.  Most of them were Bill Murray fans who were in the mood for an offbeat alternative to the summer idiot fare otherwise available.  After the movie, these same people gathered in knots, strangers to each other, to argue its merits  - about 50/50 I’d say, and the ones who didn’t like it really didn’t like it. 

                I’m one of the ones who did.  The rumpled map that is Bill Murray’s face is all about timing. You watch it; you read it; you wait.  And then, by some inner machinery that none of us is privy to, he either says something or does something – you can bet that whichever it is will be delivered with economy.  And so we wait for the series of situation/reaction/action scenes that come create his responses.  For many people, this becomes an ordeal; for the rest of us, it is a waiting game with rewards.  Remember Jack Benny? 

                Don Johnston (Bill Murray) made his money in computers and plowed at least some of it into his minimalist house where he sits alone on a brown couch listening to opera or watching TV in the quiet dark.  The remote sits in fingers the way a cigarette used to in ours, just part of his hand.  This is not the home of a fun lover.  As the movie opens, Don’s girlfriend Julie Delpy) is leaving him, “I don’t want to be with an over-the hill-Don Juan.”  “Over-the-hill” is easy to understand.  Don Juan is not.   

                Don’s next-door neighbor is his best friend Winston (Jeffrey Wright), a man who has three jobs, five sons, and a patient wife.  Come to think of it, Winston too is patient.  He is devoted to Don and welcomes him in times of stress or trouble.  This is one of those times.  Don has received a letter in a pink envelope that tells him he fathered a son some twenty years ago.  No details, no signature.  The mother just wanted to warn Don that the boy might come looking for him.  That suits Don, but not Winston who presents Don with Map quest directions and a rented car.  Don must find his son by seeking out the four old girl friends who could have been the boy’s mother. 

                These would be Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton , each in a duet of awkward silences with the searching father.  After all, Bill Murray doesn’t bring much to anybody’s table.  It’s a great premise with a controversial resolution, but the main thing to enjoy is sitting in Bill Murray’s silent sadness.  He seems to be a decent man in a life that leaves him lifeless.  The downside of the movie is that it relies too much on Bill Murray being Bill Murray.  As for the resolution, that’s for you to argue about with the strangers in your theater lobby.


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