Every Rose Has Its Thorn

01-Aug-08 12:00 PM by
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Remember Father's Day? I didn't think so. It was a 1997 comedy with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams in which the perfect strangers hit the road to find the son one of them never knew they had — and to find out which one is the father.

Cross this film's plot with Mamma Mia!, subtract the comedy and soundtrack, and you get Broken Flowers, a 2005 film starring Bill Murray. I never heard of this movie when it hit theaters, but as with The Squid and the Whale, it was on my list of "20 Essential Break Up Movies", and I've been a fan of Bill Murray's serious side ever since Lost in Translation and The Razor's Edge. A friend recently criticized this actor's inability to be serious, a sentiment I found appalling — until I saw this film.

It's boring. 2001 boring. There are prolongated sequences of absolutely nothing happening. Murray spends the film's first half-hour mopingly contemplating an anonymous letter he's received that suggests a lover of two decades past has born him a vagabond son he's never known. Begrudgingly curious, he sets out to find the mother of his child. After that slow setup, we're then presented with a series of vignettes as Murray awkwardly encounters his past loves, with all parties exhibiting the symptoms of deipnophobia. Throughout it all, he expresses almost no emotion, which makes his character's reputation as a Don Juan unbelievable. The ending brings the audience no closure — a sort of romantic Rashômon, where we can choose which of four stories to believe, if any, but with none of them offering any satisfaction.

This is the second movie I've rented that fit this description: "Going through a breakup? Whether you're looking for escapism or self-assessment, laughs or bitter revenge, these are some of the best movies ever to deal directly with the end of a relationship and the world that awaits." Neither film was what I expected. When I'm fresh out of a break-up, I don't want to see other people in bad relationships, or even in any kind of relationship. A good breakup movie should celebrate the joys of bachelorhood and focus on the opportunities brought by this newfound freedom. In my case, and now that I know better, I'd exercise the freedom to not watch this movie.

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