Broken Flowers: Fun With the Reviewers

On Friday we went to see the new Jim Jarmusch film Broken Flowers, and I was struck, first of all, that Bill Murray is playing exactly the same character he played in Lost in Translation. It's a little sad that a veteran art filmmaker like Jarmusch is essentially doing a sequel to a Sofia Coppola movie, with a wacky Ethiopian neighbor and his Ethiopiques CDs adding in some masala cultural exoticism.

I was flipping through the reviews, and amazed by the amount of B.S., but I can't get up the energy to 'fisk' them thoroughly. So today I am decoding just the one line summaries of reviews of the film on Rotten Tomatoes. Sometimes reviewers find nicer sounding language that masks what they really feel about a movie. The masks are particularly impressive on a film like this -- an extremely slow-paced, abstract (largely plotless) art film that is kept afloat by Bill Murray's natural affability. I'm not saying I didn't like it (I enjoyed it "in my own way"), but rather that the reviewers are a little desperate to find something to say.

For instance, take this one-liner from Variety:

1. "With Broken Flowers, Jim Jarmusch's sly, touching new film, Bill Murray reaffirms his status as the quietest comic actor in movies today."

Translation: Bill Murray repeats himself! He phoned this one in.

2. "Jarmusch doesn't just let the audience be a fly on the wall; it's more like the whole ant and the magnifying glass experiment on a hot summer day. "

Translation: You will be bored out of your skull, readers! I sure was. I kept hoping that the screen would catch fire, so I could get my money back. And the movie was so boring I was able to come up with some pretty outrageous metaphors to describe the precise texture of my colossal disinterest.

3. "Admittedly, some may find the movie's pacing a bit self-indulgent and its sense of humor more than a little odd, but this rewarding, cinematic voyage of self-discovery also provides some real food for thought."
Translation: I didn't get this movie, it made no sense to me, but maybe there was something I missed. I'm a little slow when it comes to understanding challenging films, you see. I used to write for the Sports Section, but they transferred me.

4. "A wonderful collaboration between two unique talents, Broken Flowers perhaps isn’t for casual mainstream tastes, but it speaks eloquently to what’s broken in all of us."

Translation: No translation possible. The phrase "it speaks eloquently to what's broken in all of us" is the purest and most perfect nonsense. Any reviewer with a tendency to such sublime meaninglessness is clearly getting paid by the word.

5. ""Exhibits a confident delicacy and palpable, mature sadness."

Translation: Depressing as hell. Don't forget to bring your Prozac.

6. "Jarmusch isn’t blessed with as rounded a social collision as Mystery Train and Night on Earth. But it’s the best of his post-Dead Man output."

Two translations: a. I have watched more movies than you, and therefore I can tell you that Jim Jarmusch's post-Dead Man output has generally been a bit sub-par. And b) while watching this film you'll wish you were sixteen again, out after curfew, watching Night On Earth at the Biograph Theater in Georgetown... Sigh, we were young then, weren't we?

7. "As with previous Jarmusch rambles, Broken Flowers risks getting overpowered by aridity and drift. That it barely avoids such a fate can be credited entirely to Murray's graceful empathy with loss and regret."

Translation: I hated this film, hated hated hated it. But Jim Jarmusch is widely thought of as a genius, so I have to find some redeeming value in the film if I want to keep this job.

8. "Take this trip with him and chances are, you'll find the journey increasingly funny and touching."

Translation: Actually Desson Thomson of the Washington Post thought he was reviewing March of the Penguins. Wrong film.

9. "Audiences will laugh, mainly to prove they're awake, but the humor is pretty thin."

Translation: No translation necessary!!! Finally, an honest reviewer. Kyle Smith of the New York Post, you are the only honest reviewer in Babylon. I send you an honorary ripe tomato.