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Broken Flowers

Review Written by: Will Penley
Film: A+
What the MPAA Rating should be: PG-13 (for brief graphic nudity)

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Produced by: Jon Kilik and Stacey Smith
Starring: Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton
Studio: Focus Features

Bill Murray continues to surprise me as an actor. He wowed me in 2003 as a man stuck in a mid-life crisis in Lost in Translation and again in 2004 as a famed oceanographer seeking revenge on a shark in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of our time and even though he was great in the numerous comedies he was in, he should definitely stick to doing dramas because that's the genre where his real talent emerges. Lots of people will say differently, but I don't really care. As great as the aforementioned performances were, I think he's given his best performance of all time in Broken Flowers, the latest film from writer/director Jim Jarmusch.

The plot is so simple and complex at the same time. Don Johnston (Bill Murray) is an aging Don Juan who has just broken up with yet another one of his many girlfriends (Julie Delpy). On the same day, he receives a mysterious pink letter in the mail that tells him that he has a 19-year-old son who may be looking for him. After showing the letter to his friendly neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), he tells Don to make a list of all the women he had a relationship with twenty years prior and he would compile a list of their current addresses so that Don could investigate the letter. Very reluctantly, Don agrees and sets out on a journey of mystery and self-discovery.

This is undoubtedly one of the greatest films ever made. As I've said before, Murray continues to astound with his performance, as does Jeffrey Wright as his neighbor Winston. We're hooked from the beginning, with a fascinating montage of the pink letter's journey from the unseen author all the way to Don's house set to the haunting tune of the Greenhornes' "There Is an End." If there was an award for best title sequence, this would definitely take it. Jarmusch's screenplay is just amazing. Any one of the four women Don visits could be the one who sent the letter. I've found that coincidence plays a large part in Broken Flowers. At each woman's house, he finds various "clues" like pink roses, stationary and even a pink typewriter. He believes that these findings will help lead him to the letter's penman, but this is only coincidence. Coincidence is even present in the film's very bittersweet and ripe-for-theory ending (which I won't spoil). Did Jarmusch plan for things to be this way, or were good angels just circling the production? I don't know, but it works fantastically. I've also realized that maybe none of his former flames sent him the letter, and it was all just somebody's idea of a joke. The possibilities are endless. Why Jarmusch didn't get a nomination for best original screenplay bemuses me because he was completely deserving of it. Ah, another one of the Academy's mistakes.

Broken Flowers isn't going to please everyone, especially most of the casual viewers. However, if you love films like Lost in Translation or great films in general, you're going to fall in love with Broken Flowers, one of the absolute best films I've ever seen.

Bill Murray and Julie Delpy in Broken Flowers.
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