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BROKEN FLOWERS **

CAST: Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Julie Delpy, Mark Webber, Chloe Sevigny, Christopher McDonald, Alexis Dziena, Larry Fessenden, Chris Bauer, Pell James, Heather Alicia Simms, Brea Frazier

WRITER/DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch


Can Daddy remember that precious moment his son was born? Don’t be silly. Daddy can’t even remember that precious moment the kid was conceived. The truth is that Don Johnston, a long-time Lothario played with weirdly catatonic charm by Bill Murray, has been a confirmed non-procreator from puberty to fiftysomething. And he’s never felt so much as a sliver of regret--until now, that is, when he feels a vague unsteadiness after opening a pink envelope and reading a note from an anonymous woman informing him that their long-ago liaison produced a tenacious son who is intent on tracking down his father.

So what does Don do when confronted by the fact of his fatherhood? He does what he always does--he stares enigmatically into space, sighs and switches on the TV to watch an old movie. Significantly, he does not retreat to his laptop, because he doesn’t own one, even though he has managed to make a bundle in the computer business. Don does eventually slip into action, however, thanks to the good-hearted interference of Winston (Jeffrey Wright), the jolly Ethiopian father of five who lives next door and is apparently Don’s only friend in the entire world. Before long, Don is off on a crazed journey, minutely mapped out by Winston, in the hope of linking up with the secretive former lover who will lead him to his newly discovered offspring.

This frothy nonsense may sound like the pilot for the latest naughty-but-trite TV sitcom, but it’s actually the latest movie from Jim Jarmusch, the indie directors’ indie director, the religiously non-commercial auteur responsible for keeping cineastes pure, if not riotously entertained, with the likes of “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Down by Law,” “Mystery Train” and “Dead Man.” And, to be fair, Jarmusch and Murray do provide a scattering of solid laughs, with the help of Sharon Stone (above, with a post-coital Murray) as a still-hot number whose race-car hubby has gone up in flames, leaving her with a knockout, mostly nude teenage tease of a daughter named Lolita (played by Alexis Dziena, a knockout tease we hope to be seeing a lot more of in the future). Strong support--in regrettably small roles--is also supplied by Jessica Lange, as a once-upon-a-time bedmate of Don’s who has found a way to make talking to animals pay big bucks, and Chloe Sevigny, who seems to be her current bedmate.

Yet, in the end, “Broken Flowers” is like a broken record--the same situation played over and over, wearing thinner and thinner with each episode, and offering no emotional or intellectual payoff. Don may at last be on his way to finding his son, but why on earth should we care?

Bill Murray is one of America’s true movie treasures, but I’m afraid something has been lost in translation this time out.