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A midlife crisis in full bloom

Bill Murray plays yet another lost soul in 'Broken Flowers.'

By Marshall HeymanContributor to The Christian Science Monitor / August 5, 2005



In the most recent leg of his career, Bill Murray has played a series of beautiful losers with resounding success. These include the depressed industrialist from "Rushmore," the insomniac actor stuck in Japan in "Lost in Translation," and the oceanographer facing an existential crisis in "The Life Aquatic." Murray plays an even less expressive role - if that's possible - in Jim Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers."

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Murray stars as the womanizing Don Johnston, whose name isn't the only thing about him that evokes Don Juan. He can't seem to commit to anyone, let alone his latest girlfriend, Sherry (Julie Delpy). "I feel like your mistress and you're not even married," Sherry tells Don on her way out. And then a strange pink letter appears in Don's mailbox, supposedly from a previous conquest, informing him that he has a 19-year-old son who is trying to track him down. Aided by his neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), Don embarks on a trip to visit ex-lovers who, he hopes, will lead him to his son and enlighten him about where his life derailed.

Too bad none of them is really interested in him anymore. Not Laura (Sharon Stone), a widow who lives with her aptly named - and often unclothed - daughter, Lolita; not Carmen (Jessica Lange), an animal therapist who's found enormous success without Don; not the happily married Dora (Frances Conroy), and certainly not Penny (a virtually unrecognizable Tilda Swinton) who chases him off with a shotgun. But that little pink note has struck a chord: every time Don sees a young man on his trip, the question of "what might have been, and what could be" flashes over his face.

Though "Broken Flowers" may be Jarmusch's most accessible film to date - his other movies include the far more elliptical "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" and "Dead Man" - its portrait of Don's awakening to his own shortcomings still unfolds at a slow and deliberate pace. He's a character far more interesting in his past than his present, and when the film finally arrives at its ambiguous, unsatisfying climax, it provides less closure for the viewer than it does for our protagonist.

Rated R for language, some graphic nudity, and brief drug use.

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