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Movie review **

Flowers Aren’t All That’s Broken

By Kelley Rivoire

Broken Flowers

Directed and written by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Tilda Swinton, and Jessica Lange

Rated R

Don’t believe the hoards of “Broken Flowers” reviews that herald it as deep and eloquent. Hollywood reviewers have appare ntly tired of the summer crop of insipid, slapstick comedies and special effect-laden action fil ms, instead vaunting the vaguely intelligent, upper-crust humor of movies like “Broken Flowers.” But just because a movie feigns intelligence doesn’t mean it actually says anything.

“Broken Flowers” chronicles an episode in the life of a modern-day Don Juan, Don Johnston (Bill Murray). A middle-aged man with a younger live-in girlfriend, Don lacks both the personal fulfilment of his family man next-door neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright) and the wardrobe variety. The day his girlfriend (Julie Delpy) leaves him, an unsigned, typed letter in a pink envelope appears in his mail: one of his relationships 20 years ago apparently yielded a son, whom the unknown mother suggests might be trying to find his father.

Puzzled, Johnston shows the letter to Winston, who has an unusual penchant for solving mysteries. Winston concocts a detailed schedule for Don in which Don embarks on a cross-country journey to visit four former girlfriends and hopefully, find the anonymous mother.

Don’s first target is Laura (Sharon Stone), whose race car driver husband died on the job, leaving her alone to support herself and her rather aptly-named, exhibitionist teenage daughter Lolita. Don leaves their small home without a solution to his mystery, but not without making good on his Don Juan moniker.

Next comes Dora (Frances Conroy), clearly uncomfortable around Don (is she the m other?); they share an awkward meal with the couple at her husband’s behest. Third is Carmen (Jessica Lange), an “animal communicator,” apparently now more interested in her female assistant (Chloe Sevigny) than in men. Finally, Don visits Penny (Tilda Swinton), who’s clearly not thrilled to see him, and whose trailer park friends leave Don with a few injuries. Finally, Don visits the grave site of the fifth girlfriend and heads back home.

Murray plays Johnston in a deadpan, minimalist style that’s different from that of almost any other actor, but trademark Bill Murray. Though entertaining, his acting and an equally abrupt plot aren’t sufficient to override the disconcerting lack of substance. Perhaps there’s a point to the mind-numbing repetitiveness of seeing each of Johnston’s airplane flights and watching him drive each rental car to the tune of a CD from Winston, but it was certainly lost on me.

The supporting actresses who play Don’s former girlfriends perform admirably, as does Wright, who elicits quite a few laughs, but it doesn’t matter much when their roles mean so little.

“Broken Flowers” clearly tries to appeal to a higher class of moviegoers, one of the art for art’s sake mantra. The sleek stylishness of the movie is undebatable, but the lack of a convincing plot, and, more importantly, a point, means that those two hours of your life are better spent elsewhere.