Thursday, January 19, 2006

Bill Murray - A master of deadpan comedy

I’m a huge Bill Murray fan. This guy cracks me up. Big time. He has this amazing ability to do nothing at all, and still be really fascinating and really REALLY funny.

How he does it is beyond me.

By the time a friend told me that his new movie, Broken Flowers, was out in the theatres, I was already seated comfily in Orchard Cineleisure Theatre 6.

This is the set-up of Broken Flowers.

Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a lifelong bachelor, who made his money in computers and now refuses to own one.

Soon after his girlfriend moves out of his house, refusing to spend any more time with "an over-the-hill Don Juan", he receives a pink coloured, typewritten letter. It informs him that he has a 19-year-old son who may soon show up on his doorstep.

The letter is unsigned with no return address, so he doesn’t know which old girlfriend sent it or how to contact her.

While Don is unmoved by the news, his best friend and next-door neighbor Winston, takes a huge interest in this mysterious case. He makes Don come up with a list of possible ex-girlfriends from 20 years ago, tracks them down, and organises a trip for Don to meet them and to find out, as discreetly as possible, who sent the letter.

Winston’s advice to Don: "The letter is on pink stationery. Give them pink flowers and watch their reaction."

So the film focuses on Don’s journey as he drops in on his ladies. There are five of them on Don’s list. Four of them are played by big-name veteran actresses; Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.

Their appearances are short, but powerful. They reveal just enough about themselves to us to hint at their past with Don. And they reveal just enough to Don to tell him what he needs to know about who sent the letter and his son.

The fifth girlfriend doesn’t appear because she had passed away in a car accident some years back. The scene where he pays her a visit at the cemetery is a short, but moving one.

But while the story line seems heavy, the film is hilarious. From his encounter with Sharon Stone’s exhibitionist daughter...

“That was quite an outfit you weren’t wearing earlier,” Don remarks

... To a surreal three-way conversation with Jessica Lange and a cat. The feline warns her about Don. "He says you have a hidden agenda,” Jessica Lange tells him.

Then there is a very funny dinner scene where Don dines with his ex (played by Frances Conroy) and her hubby.

I have got to say this… I can tell how good an actor is from the way he eats on film. I’m serious! Take Chow Yun Fatt for example. This guy can make me sob just from watching him eat chicken rice!

Same for Bill Murray. He had me in stitches as he looked balefully at his plate of carrots, stabbed at them with his fork into a lovely orange column, proceeded to push them all into his mouth and almost gag from the taste or lack of.

Bill Murray is his typical deadpan self here. But in his stillness and sadness, he is quietly funny and delivers a powerful performance as always. I also love the one-liners he delivers and his charming interactions with Winston’s children.

Those of you who have watched Lost In Translation, well… Broken Flowers is somewhat similar. (Do I hear a cheer or a groan?) The pacing is slow, the humour is subtle and a lot of the film is left to your own interpretation. I’m not always a fan of flicks like these. But Bill Murray is such a gem of an actor, he makes Broken Flowers (and Lost In Translation) hilarious. And Broken Flowers had me and my friend laughing out loud at many parts.

I’m still undecided about the ending though… not sure if I like it yet. It’s one of those open endings. I suppose we aren’t meant to know for sure if any of these women is the mother of his son, or if Don ever gets to meet him. By the end of the movie, we realise that this road trip isn’t as much a journey for Don to discover if he has a child, as it is a journey to discover if he actually wants a child.

Oh, the other thing I enjoyed about Broken Flowers is the soundtrack. Winston burns Don a CD of Ethiopian chill-out music for his trip. It sounds like Balinese music bellydance-style. Very hypnotic. Very cool.

I think I may have just become a fan of Ethiopian jazz!

~5-Cat Style


cat_aunty said...

Thanks for that! I will definitely look out for the DVD!

=^..^= said...


~The Disgruntled Flyer

=^..^= said...

Hi Cat Aunty,

You won't regret renting the DVD! :)

And Flyer... I've reserved you ONLY for SCARY movies. Muahahaha!

~5-Cat Style

moot said...

I'm wondering where/how you got the stills at all the right moments... you mean you bought the DVD?! o_o

Kinda surprised you took to this kind of understated scripts. But yeah, certainly Murray has found his niche in this sort of movie, though I recall him looking pretty miffed when he missed the '04 Oscar win.


=^..^= said...

Hi Moot,

Ahaha! No, I didn't rush out to buy the DVD. I merely used my Google-fu skills to muster up the images.

>Kinda surprised you took to this kind of understated scripts.

Why, may I ask, are you surprised? And think carefully before you answer...

~5-Cat Style

moot said...

> Why, may I ask, are you surprised?
> And think carefully before you answer...

Lessee... because not many people have as good taste in movies as me? :p MWAHAHA~