To be honest, my knowledge of modern Bill Murray films is a bit lacking. I haven’t seen any of his collaborations with Wes Anderson save Moonrise Kingdom, and most of my knowledge of his work involves the classics such as Ghostbusters and his work on SNL. I’m trying to catch up on the Murray that I’ve missed in the last few years, and since 2005’s Broken Flowers was on Netflix, I thought that I’d try it out.
In this film, Bill Murray plays the main character Don Johnston, whose name is a play on Don Juan that I personally appreciated. After being with several different women over the years, Don receives an anonymous letter from one of his former lovers saying that he has a son who is now a young adult. Don then sets off on a cross-country journey to visit four of his former lovers whom he was with two decades ago to find out more about his son.
I have to admit, this film started off a bit slow. It takes about a half hour for Don to hit the road, but once he does, it’s a much more enjoyable ride. His journey reveals what these lovers have been up to since he’s been out of their lives; one of them has taken a husband, and another has become a moderately successful animal communicator. The conversations and dinners that ensue are both uncomfortable and amusing, providing a few laughs along the way.
One thing that I enjoyed about this film was that it didn’t advocate nor condemn Don’s actions in his earlier years; it rather just shows this one man’s experiences and how his lifestyle has affected his twilight years. It was also interesting to see Don, who was at first pressured into taking this trip by his friend, warm up to the journey as he visits these women and remembers the times that he had with them. Don clearly has some regret about what he’s done, but it is also very apparent that he cared deeply for each of these women, despite how any of them may now feel about him.
Murray did a fantastic job in this film. As I said, I haven’t seen many modern Bill Murray films, and I am aware that he has done several serious roles since his heyday. It was great to see him in a more subtle role where he has toned-down conversations with the rest of the cast, showing a more human side to the beloved actor. There was even a scene where the former SNL star welled up with tears, and I have to say that it was one of the more believable crying performances that I’ve seen in awhile. I also enjoyed the several talented actresses who were recruited to play Don’s former love interests, an ensemble that included the likes of Sharon Stone and Jessica Lange. The script served each of their characters well, and made the film an enjoyable ride.
As I stated above, the film gets off to a slow start, and I felt that it took me awhile to become invested in Don’s life. I also have to say that for a film that bills itself as a comedy-drama, I didn’t laugh very much throughout the course of the film. This flick definitely sticks more to the serious side of the dramedy tightrope, which was definitely a deliberate decision. Altogether, the direction, dialogue, and characters really drew me into Don’s world, and I’d be happy to watch this film again.