I started this as a diatribe on comedic actors/comedians that cross over to drama roles in movies. Tom Hanks, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Adam Sandler, even Will Farrell has a borderline movie coming out. I recently watched Broken Flowers and it reminded me of how great of an actor Bill Murray is. With few exceptions, Murray puts life into characters uniquely. If you need proof that this stereotypical comedic actor has chops as an actor, refresh your memory with Scrooged or Groundhog Day. Bill Murray does something in most of his roles that a lot of actors can’t do, he makes it impossible to think of anyone else playing his character. Do yourself a favor, if you haven’t seen Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou go get them now or drop them into your Netflix queue.
If you haven’t seen Lost in Translation, do the same. If you want to see a movie that is brilliantly made with a great story with subtle humor and great performances, get your hands on Broken Flowers. Bill Murray plays a retired guy who made his money in the computer industry. After receiving an anonymous letter in the mail explaining he has a son and the son is looking for him, he embarks on a quest to find the woman who sent him the letter. The plan is hatched by his neighbor who pretty well steals the show with a couple of great scenes, a blue collar immigrant who seems to be an amateur detective. There is plenty of ambiguity in all the connections he makes along his journey and we’re left at a cross roads in Bill Murray’s life literally and figuratively. As a fan of Jim Jarmusch’s filmmaking, this might just be the most mainstream and accessible of his films. It’s well shot and there are several great moments. I’ve said before that Steve Zissou finds his heart and soul, but we’re left wondering if Don Johnston (and yes, plenty of Don Johnson jokes) really found anything in his journey. Don’t make the mistake that the frat guys who were disappointed when Punch Drunk Love wasn’t Happy Gilmore and expect Caddy Shack…the humor is subtle, but it’s there.