The Red Right Hand

Sometimes Life Brings Some Strange Surprises

Jim Jarmusch
Bill Murray
Sharon Stone
Jeffrey Wright
Tilda Swinton

Jarmusch is a very artistic director whose films don't always get the attention or credit they deserve; two that spring to mind would be Ghost Dog and Coffee & Cigarettes. Don't get me wrong, though, I'm a fan of artistic movies - I truly believe they can be a unique art form, neither portrait nor film yet both - but I have to confess I'm seeing a pattern developing here and that pattern is sitting.

The film starts by following a letter from it's drop point (somewhere in the US) to it's destination: Don Johnston's [Murray] house. Don's sitting on a large leather sofa and although he acknowledges that post has dropped through his letterbox he seems too preoccupied to do anything about it (Note how I said that he was sitting on the sofa - first of many places that Don sits in the new feature-length production by Jim Jarmusch, 'Bill Murray: Planting His Arse Across The US'). A young lady (she actually seemed a bit young for Murray, but this actually comes to relevance later) carrying a case makes a stand with him and walks out, it would seem Don is a bachelor on the prowl again. Don goes to visit his friend and neighbour, Winston [Wright] - a man who likes his detective-orientated crime fiction. On arrival at Winston's, Don opens the letter which states that he has a son that may possibly come looking for him. Being the man he is, Winston instantly starts by searching for clues, evidence, any available trace as to who the sender may be. Slightly shaken up, Don goes back home and proceeds to make a list of all the women it could be - as instructed by Winston. The next day Don meets Winston in a diner where he produces a dossier with four lady's details (the fifth possibility died in a car accident five years ago) and a schedule for Don. Having been successfully convinced to track this lady down, Don takes a plane off to... well, we're not sure but the whole thing was filmed in one state so it doesn't matter that much.

Seeing as I have travelled alone to many foreign lands I can safely say that this film depicts the best on-screen representation of it. You sit alone, surrounded by people with their own lives, stories and journeys and all you can do is unintentionally eavesdrop on conversations and casually stare at people to deduce who and what they are. Sounds weird, doesn't it? Well, you all do it, so pipe down. Don is also a womaniser, not only is he looking around at everyone but he tends to focus on girls a lot, in fact the only time he focuses on a man is when he's under the impression that he may be his son or to give him an idea of what his son may be like. Two interesting elements are the music and the women. The music throughout is purely relevant, ie. it's part of the story, usually playing on a stereo or TV; when embarking on his quest Winston hands Don a CD of African jazz, granted an odd choice but it works so well, almost giving a feel of a 20's/30's private eye film. The women that Don visits are as different from each other as they are from him but this all adds up nicely as he searches for clues (pink objects, typewriters and pictures of sons - subtle) and finds himself feeling awkward amongst all of them for some reason or another. Every single encounter is different: the introductions, the explanations and the conclusions.

This film swings very dangerously between arty/intelligent and too odd to comprehend. I don't want to give away the ending but I'm going to, so look away now if you have to. In the end Bill Murray doesn't find out who it was and the possibility is raised that the letter may indeed by a cruel hoax. Having just chased some kid off by freaking him out with talk of 'being his dad,' Don finds himself staring at a large bearded guy in a VW Beatle as he drives past, then it dawns on him that he may never find this so-called son, even if there is one; his previous attempts to deduce who his son might be were based on what he wanted (initially you get the impression that he thinks his son is this good-looking, well dressed guy on a bus) or what they were wearing (the final two had similar jogging tops, one looked lost at the airport and the other was the VW guy) and that's it, that's where the film ends. You may want to know why I outlined this, it's pretty simple, this isn't an anti-climactic film, it's the internal journey of an aging bachelor finally growing up. Throughout the course of the film we don't really understand why these women would like Don or why they seem happy to see him; there does seem to be some sort of natural charm about him, as every woman appears to like him or if you're looking a little too closely (as I have a tendency to) maybe that's just how the director wanted you to see it. Maybe this is how Don sees himself, as if every girl he comes in contact with connects with him on the spot - with regards to (naked) Lolita this could be the case. It's a good film and I really enjoyed it but the impact at the end could have been spread throughout the film in separate forms - just to keep the audience going, ah well.

Release Date:
21st October 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
Sitting in the dark, listening to opera, Don gets a call from Winston asking if he's finished the list. With the list in front of him, Don says, 'What list?' and proceeds to act as if he wasn't going to follow it up. We then see Winston walk past the front window to which Don says, 'Are you on a cell phone?' Winston comes in and takes the list, then leaves. This kind of humour is littered across the duration of the film and I don't know why but it really works.

Notable Characters:
There really is only one character and that's Don Johnston, everyone else (bar Winston) seems nothing more than a cameo, as Don drops in then disappears back onto the road. Murray's despondent delivery of Don's deadpan nature is absolutely fantastic and keeps you scanning every single motion, no matter how subtle. If Bill Murray had not played Don I honestly don't think it would have worked.

Highlighted Quote:
"Hey, couldn't you have gotten me a Porsche or something I might actually drive? I'm a stalker in a Taurus."

In A Few Words:
Apparently written in two weeks and as great as it may be, it shows

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon