Picks and Pans Review: Broken Flowers

updated 08/15/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/15/2005 01:00AM

Bill Murray, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Frances Conroy

CRITIC'S CHOICE

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So what if he's too old to play Hamlet? Murray is the Prince of Middle-Aged Melancholy. He continues his exploration of the emptiness and disillusion of advancing years (see 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, 2003's Lost in Translation and 1998's Rushmore) with inimitable, dead-pan comic zing in writer-director Jim Jarmusch's coolly wry Broken Flowers.

Murray portrays Don Johnston, a longtime Don Juan, who, having retired early after making a fortune in computers, now sits morosely in his suburban living room clad in a warm-up suit. He receives an anonymous letter from a former girlfriend telling him that he fathered a son 19 years ago. Egged on by his wannabe detective neighbor (Jeffrey Wright, who's hilarious), Don hits the road to visit the gals (Stone, Lange, Swinton and Conroy, all terrific) he dated 20 years ago.

It's a journey of self-discovery for Don, one of facing not always welcoming figures from his past. For viewers it's a chance to tag along on a trip that is by turns funny, surprising, sad and, like human existence, more than a little mysterious. Whether Don knows any more at the end of the tour than he did at the beginning is a question he has to answer for himself, just as most of us inevitably will somewhere down the road of life. (R)

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