With every Jarmusach film that I watch, I develop more and more love towards the randomness in my life. His films leave me with a kind of ambiguity that is both alarming and subtly satisfying. In his 2005 film Broken Flowers, Bill Murray plays an aging Don Juan (ironically his character is named Don Johnston which calls for a couple of inside jokes) who randomly receives a letter from an old flame after his latest girlfriend walks out on him. The letter states that he has a son that he, not once in his 19 years of existence, had been aware of.
Living a life of uncompromisingly quite retirement, Don is the least bit interested in the idea of seeking out these latest development in his life that might eventually cause definite chaos. Which brings us to the understanding that Don is one of those characters who wishes to just do nothing at all. Having made a fortune in computers in the past, Don is possibly interested in just sitting on his couch, sip the occasional wine and listen to whatever music he can (without much effort) put on the turntable.
Jim Jarmusch usually puts his central character (who are seemingly uninterested in the life around them) alongside a hyper-talkative or supposedly normal person. Like the ever arguing couple in his latest film Paterson are present to bring a constant contrast for the viewers bringing them completely to the middle of the film. This makes his characters seem more intriguing than they actually are. In Broken Flowers, Winston (played superbly by Jeffrey Wright) is a family man. He juggles between his tree jobs, supports his wife and five kids and still finds time to do some Sherlock-ing around Don’s situation. Unwilling to follow upon Wright’s detective plans initially, Don decides to embark on a journey to find the woman who could have written the letter.
Broken Flowers is a subtle, absolutely warm character study of a man who is not willing to commit to anything. Or to put it more accurately – it’s about a man who isn’t even willing to think about the idea of commitment or anything even remotely similar to it in the first place. At a point in the film, Jarmusch focuses his camera on Don sitting on the sofa contemplating whether to go for the glass of wine on the table next to him. His hand rises, only to dash right back without the required effort to get to the glass. So if you are one of those not so passive viewers, you shouldn’t really get into Don’s House.
The film is fused with quirky happenings that randomly and naturally flow into the deconstructed narrative. Jarmusach uses Bill Murray’s naturalistic movements and dialogues delivery to evoke hilarious deadpan humor. While Don doesn’t really care for what goes around him, when he meets the women, there’s a sense of unmisted vibe between them. Jarmusach cleverly coats the ambiguity of his character, who is portrayed as a womanizer by dropping very subtle hints of his power over women or his understanding of them.
Like many other Jarmusach films, Broken Flowers also feels like a series of vignettes pieced together. The women in the film are mostly strange and their actions never really govern themselves. There’s also a vibe of regret when Jarmusach focuses his camera on the expressions of the women and Don as they recognize each other, which instantly points to a shared history that has been taken over by the change in their age and life. Casual viewers might find themselves running in a loop as Don takes different flights, rents a Tauras, gets pink flowers and sadly rests in motel rooms. But to passive movie watchers, that’s exactly where all the fun is to be had. Jarmusach’s character’s melancholia is just on the surface. We never really see him sad (not if you consider his usual face to be normal) until he almost bursts out visiting the grave of the 5th woman.
In Jarmusach’s own words – The music in his films do not force you into feeling a certain kind of emotion. His choice of music provides a certain layer to the story that probably feels like it’s coming from nowhere and going somewhere which won’t satisfy you. The Greenhornes’s There Is An End, which apparently finds a place in the film’s soundtrack very accurately portrays Don Jonston and his quest for what he is really missing in his life. Packed with one of the best performance of the decade by Bill Murray, watching Broken Flowers is like walking down a familiar road while being unable to understand which turn takes you home.