Broken Flowers (2005)

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As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers. (IMDb)
On one level, a thoughtful camera with an eye for capturing the beauty in every detail of the mundane mixed with the script’s scattered quirkiness makes accompanying Murray’s melancholy Don on his cyclical journey across America and back to visit various ex-lovers a uniquely cozy experience. On the other hand, the story’s refusal to dig deep, wrap up, or at least piece together even slightly any of the otherwise interesting parallels and “clues” from each visit make it frustrating in the end.
7/10 (Good)

 

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The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997)

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Wallace Ritchie is mistaken for a spy and must stop a plot to assassinate international leaders at a banquet. (IMDb)
The humour is mostly just from that one note of dramatic irony, but Murray’s consistent charm as the oblivious wannabe actor Wallace (“Please don’t call me by my real name, it destroys the reality I’m trying to create”) and a wide variety of escalating situations in which he unknowingly and hilariously vanquishes his enemies (maybe it was just the goofy hat, but I was in tears during the entire banquet scene) keep it fresh and funny all the way til the end. A simple but effective comedy.
7/10 (Good)

 

Lost in Translation (2003)

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A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (IMDb)
Just a hug would have been better, but aside from that and a few other missteps in the final act (the singer sleepover came out of nowhere), it’s the ultimate in soothing cinema, thanks to its down-to-earth script that manages to capture all the beauty (and often humour) found in the mundane things of hotel/tourist life and friendship (see the falling asleep while talking scene). Solidly acted and remarkably edited and scored, it’s a marvel of refreshing authenticity (see the first night out).
8/10 (Great)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when their father announces he is terminally ill. (IMDb)

Enjoyably quirky narrated character set-ups lead into a melancholic family reunion drama artistically crafted (memorable costumes and an excellent soundtrack stand out) but saturated with so much deadpan dialogue that it gets a little tiresome at points. Not all of the characters connect (Raleigh is inconsequential; Eli feels out of place) but Royal is a strong lead in his flawed quest for redemption, and Chas (see his guard let down; “I’ve had a tough year”) and Richie eventually hit home too.

6.7/10

 

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

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A year after their father’s funeral, three brothers travel across India by train in an attempt to bond with each other. (IMDb)

The estranged brother dynamic is well-written in the dryly humourous first act as keener Francis initiates their adventure, secrets are leaked, and the backstory is patiently exposited. The rest of the film loses some momentum (despite great music, slow-mo, and tracking shots) thanks to too many vaguely significant but unsubstantiated scenes (see the unearned melodrama of Jack’s farewell to Rita), though the dramatic tragedy of the second act (“He’s all bloody!”) certainly isn’t one of them.

7.1/10

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

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An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation. (IMDb)

Every scene is like a delectably detailed diorama, brought to life by endlessly creative animation (see the digging and flood sequences; the “x” eyes), perfect voice acting, and marvelous music (even the most random of moments gain tear-jerking significance with this aesthetic: see Rat’s redemption, the wolf fist-pump), while a simple story showcases remarkable characterization (see the angsty Ash) and thoughtful drama (see Mr. and Mrs. Fox’s standoff) alongside its heaps of quirky humour.

9.2/10

#6 on my Complete Film Rankings list

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

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A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them. (IMDb)

The beautiful forested island scenery dotted with hip 60s aesthetic (hello, portable turntable) paired with Anderson’s impeccable visual flair and love for detail is a match made in movie heaven. Sam and Suzy, meanwhile, lead an elope plot that is as captivating (the flood side-story adds a great sense of impending doom to the forbidden love; Desplat’s mournful score is wonderful) and tragic (the leads’ parent issues add great depth) as it is cute (see the book-reading; culminating beach shot).

8.7/10