Saturday, August 13, 2005

Broken Flowers

It's just so hot... sitting in a movie theater is really about the only thing I have energy for. Broken Flowers opened last night across the street, so of course I had to see it. (I used to go to a film every Friday night with a friend - for almost 10 years - but that's another story. Still, it's ingrained in my brain that Friday is movie night.)

I didn't really think it was that great. I am someone who likes movies that don't have neat and tidy endings, that don't over explain, that let the audience feel and think rather than simply accept what they're being told. And yet, this movie ended so abruptly and awkwardly that I seriously thought maybe there was a reel missing. (Don't laugh - in college a group of us saw "The Natural" and were later discussing with some other friends, who'd seen it at an earlier showing, our theories on the "mystery." We quickly discovered that there really wasn't supposed to be a mystery about that particular plot point - a crucial scene in the start of the film had been somehow cut/lost out of that particular print.)

I'm not liking this trend that Bill Murray can just be silent and moody, and that can make a whole character or worse, a whole film. It worked in "Lost in Translation" but it isn't going to keep working into perpetuity. There really has to be a story built around him, if not a fully realized character.

In this movie, there is a story - but it's painted with such brief strokes that it doesn't even register. I'm not spoiling anything here, I don't think (to my millions of blog readers!) but he visits four ex-lovers from two decades earlier, to find out which wrote him a letter telling him he was a father. Any one of the four could easily have been twice as long - they were too brief and too meaningless. Part of the trouble I suppose is that the director didn't want Bill Murray's character to actually discover anything, so any more time spent with any one of the women would naturally have revealed too much information that would only have proved they were, or weren't the mother of his child. It was a fine line to walk, to create four different conversations where four different women, in four different ways, never directly answer his (indirect) questions but leave him wondering still. Seriously, I just wanted him to fucking ask one of them outright. "Did you write this letter?" "Do you have a 19 year old son?" "Am I the father?"

I understand that it's supposed to be part of his character that he doesn't deal that directly with people (esp. the women in his life) and that he doesn't really care enough, or is too frightened of the resulting entanglements, to find out the truth. But you know, if he doesn't really care, and that emanates from the screen, how am I supposed to?

Edited to add:

Just read the NYTimes review. They liked it a lot more than me, but said some similar things.
We go to the theater expecting to see experience tied up in a neat, attractive package, but the best movies, the ones that insert themselves into our own experiences and ways of looking at life, frustrate that expectation.

Each of the actresses brings an indelible, eccentric individuality to the screen. We wish we could spend more time with them, or go back in time to see them with the younger Don.

It leaves you wanting more, which I mean entirely as a compliment.


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