Saturday, January 07, 2006


Boring Flowers

I am second to no one in admiration of Bill Murray as an actor. Well, okay, I'm probably second to a lot of people in admiration of Bill Murray as an actor. But I like him as an actor. I loved him in Groundhog Day and Rushmore. I thought he was terrific as Polonius in the Ethan Hawke Hamlet.

But who told Murray that a good career move for him would be to drop the comedic edge and play nothing but morbidly depressed, flat- affect guys? Broken Flowers, which I just saw, is his third in a row in this role after the wildly overrated Lost in Translation and the watchable but disappointing Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (where, as in Broken Flowers, the story revolves around the abrupt appearance of the grown up son from a long-ago fling).

One of my first thoughts when Murray first appears on screen in was "boy, I hope I don't look that crappy when I'm sixty... he doesn't look a day under 65." (And see here and here for some more looks.) Only -- you can look this up -- Murray is only 55! Wow, either he's been sick, or else it's been some hard living.

I found Broken Flowers to be quite watchable -- mostly because I was curious to see how aging former A-list hotties like Jessica Lange and Sharon Stone were looking as well as to see how the mystery of the unknown son turned out.

But the movie is extremely thin, fake-profound and film-schoolish. Long, languid shots of stuff that you or I could get by stepping outside with a videocam. There must be 10-15 minutes of footage of driving or sitting in airplanes or airports.

That this is what Jim Jarmush has "matured" into as a film-maker reflects not so well on what has come before. I have only seen half a dozen of his dozen or so movies, but really I only liked Stranger than Paradise. Down by Law, Mystery Train and Night on Earth were like bad rip-offs of Stranger.

Broken Flowers is the same schtick, mellowed, in color, and with a plot. That's the only difference. His directing and pacing reminded of nothing so much as computer games like The 3D Adventures of Nancy Drew or Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. These are the ones where you get stuck moving languidly around an empty set with evocative backgrounds and mood music punctuated by moments when you stumble upon another character and engage in brief stilted dialogue.

I consider Jarmush as positive evidence of my hunch that the best movie-making talents tend to follow the money into more mainstream movies, and that some acclaimed indie film-makers are poseurs.

Finally, whatever else you might say about commercial movies, they tend to be pros when it comes to editing. Jarmush, making a movie for his indie audience whom he assumes will eat whatever he puts in front of them, treats us to a scene where Murray stares blankly from his sofa while Jarmush's latest mood music obsession plays in the background -- for three minutes.

The demands of commercialism seem to put a premium on editing skill. I'm consistently struck at how virtually all of the deleted scenes you get as DVD special features (and most of the added material in "directors' cut versions -- Apocalypse Now... my god!) really do belong on the cutting room floor.

Dude, we have a lot in common. I thought Lost in Translation was terrible and I loved Groundhog Day and I don't believe in an afterlife.
I was so bored in that movie... and I'm the kind of person who would enjoy just watching a film of Bill reading the phone book. I LOVE him. But ugh, what a pointless waste of film. I haven't been this bored with a Bill Murray movie since Quick Change.
Bill Murray was also bland in "Coffee and Cigarettes" (2003), again Jarmusch. I think there's not too much to recommend about that film, I simply name it for the record here.
Kind of agree about Bill Murray. I'd rather turn to Dan Akroyd to learn how to grow old.
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