starring Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Tilda Swinton, Julie Delpy, Mark Webber and Chloë Sevigny
written and by Jim Jarmusch
This is the best of the recent films I have seen. I think it’s great, and you should see it. Now! In mid-life Bill Murray has matured into a great actor from the goofy guy on Saturday Night Live. He has a penchant for odd films, or odd characters - remember Lost
in Translation, Rushmore, and Aquarius. Bill Murray is like a taciturn, or completely silent Bob Newhart. No one can look deadpan straight into the camera like him. Or, sit in a dark room in a K-Mart sweat suit looking at the wall like he can. Or, sit in a room staring at the blank television screen. Or, sit in a crowded room or on a bus silently taking in all the cacophony around him. Creepy, man! He is in these scenes but not of them.
Murray plays Don Johnston, a very successful computer businessman who refuses to have a computer in his home. No problem, because his enthusiastic next-door neighbor, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), does everything on computer for him. Everywhere he goes he takes jokes about the similarity of his name with that of former Miami Vice heartthrob, Don Johnson. “With a T” is his ready answer. Always deadpan.
Don receives a pink envelope in the mail, unsigned and with no return address. The letter claims to be from a former girlfriend of 20 years previous, telling him that he has a 19-year-old son that he never knew of. Don - who is still single - was quite a lady’s man, so the information is plausible. Winston from next door goads Don into tracking down and visiting old girlfriends from that era, and so he does.
He becomes a stalker in a rented Taurus, although his purpose is benign. I will leave it to you to watch the film to see what happens. But imagine it. What is your relationship (if any) with former girlfriends? Are you still friends at all? Are the memories too bad, too painful, too regretful? Does the thought of meeting them again make you want to reach for a vomit bag?
Here’s the thing. A mature man with no family chasing his past for a lost son as a way into the future. But what can anyone expect from visiting old flames? It’s like a dog returning to sniff at its own vomit. Or, as the German’s say, “Ein snaussel unt ejecta sniffin zei.” Worlds disappear. The past is a dream that no longer exists. Lines on our faces are evidence of….what? Time is a rain that washes away everything. The present is a storm. Is reality always in flux, or is it just a continuous downpour? Existence is like a rainstorm, and we can’t tell apart the tear rolling down on our cheeks from the rain. Don is left to stare into the faces of every young man he sees, wondering…
I think the idea of visiting old girlfriends is excruciating. I don’t want to see how little I was to them in the evidence of their success without me.