This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.
Having covered his often-unclassifiable early works and his middle period, we’ve now come to the point where we can address three of Jim Jarmusch’s most recent films. Each of them is a skewed take on a different classic genre; you have a romantic comedy where the romance has wilted, you have an achingly slow spy thriller, and you have a vampire story about the undead contemplating art and suicide.
This 2005 movie hails from that Lost In Translation period when Bill Murray was launching a second golden age of his career, profiting on the fact that whereas in his original prime he was great at Being Funny, as he aged he was getting better and better at Being Sad or Being Grumpy whilst still Being Funny, and that plays really well to the indie cinema crowd. Here, Murray plays Don Johnston, who through a fluke of nominative determinism has spent his adult life being a bit of a Don Juan (as other characters like to remind him). He kicks off his Being Sad early, as his current partner Sherry (Julie Delpy) is walking out on him as a result of his relationship goals being entirely too superficial.
We soon get a gear shift into Being Grumpy, interspersed with Being Sad and, as always, injected with Being Funny and also, given the character’s established interests, Being Horny. Don receives in the post a mysterious, unsigned letter, purporting to be from a partner of his from around 20 years ago. The letter claims that the author became pregnant by Don and gave birth to a son shortly after the end of their relationship, and that the lad, now just shy of 19 years old, has gone on a cross-country road trip whose purpose he’s being closed-mouthed about but could well be an attempt to track down Don.