Thursday, September 08, 2005

Breaking to Become Whole

Bill Murray in Broken Flowers.

Wednesday night is the kiddo's midweek overnight with his dad, so while he's away I sometimes go to a movie. Last night I saw Broken Flowers, starring Bill Murray. I could watch that man for a long time. A long, long time.

It's possible the fact that Bill Murray reminds me of my son's dad has a little to do with this. Or maybe that fact is what attracted me to my son's dad in the first place. Then again, they both remind me of my inner self at times.

In the story -- and this isn't spoiling anything -- Murray's character, Don, a lifelong bachelor, receives an anonymous note stating he has a 19-year-old son who may be trying to find him. Don narrows down the possible mothers to five women he dated approximately 20 years ago, and sets out to find them and see which one sent the note.

Don isn't sure at first whether he wants to find out who sent the note. He's not sure whether he wants to meet his son. He's not sure whether he wants kids at all (although Murray's scenes with the neighbor children are wonderful in an understated kind of way). He's not sure what he wants in a relationship. He's not sure about a lot of things. And so he sits. And sits. And sits some more.

Anyone who saw Lost in Translation knows Murray can play passive with an intensity that makes you want to see what he might do next. He makes you want to see what is causing his pain, his depression, his uncertainty, his loss...or maybe his passivity allows us to project onto him our own similar feelings. It's hard to say.

I loved Broken Flowers. It's the kind of movie that leaves me thinking for days afterward.

The theater was almost empty; I think there were about seven people in the audience. As we watched the film, I thought maybe we were all part of the "in" crowd -- the crowd that knows a good film when we see one. I thought maybe everyone was feeling the same way I was as we watched the film. I thought we were all similarly moved.


When I see movies on my own, which is most of the time, I like to eavesdrop on people's conversations afterward. Two women who looked like they were in their late fifties were discussing the film as they exited the theater.

"That Jessica Lange's plastic surgery looked like hell," one said. "She didn't even look like herself."

"I know," said the other. "She's had cheek implants and God-know-what. But I'm trying to decide what I hated the most about that movie..."

"So you didn't like the movie?" I asked them, although they obviously didn't.

"Ugh! Like what was the deal with that girl??" said the first one. "And why was she always _____??" She shook her head.

"Right. And why was he always just sitting there??" said the other.

They looked at me. "Did you like the movie?"

I murmured something about liking "a lot of things" about the film, about liking Bill Murray -- just throwaway comments. I wished we could sit down for coffee and I could explain to them why the movie was so...perfect.

But their minds were obviously made up. "I'm just glad we didn't drive out to Hillcrest to see this!" one exclaimed.

It would've been futile anyway. I didn't know how to explain the way a process changes someone no matter what, the way small actions and moments convey more than a million words, how it's so hard to say what you're aching to say, how it's too easy to wander through life not knowing exactly what you want until you don't have it...or until circumstance forces you to choose.