SHOULD I SEE IT?
Zoey Deutch. This is someone we all need to be paying attention to.
For those who like provocative, edgy, dark comedies, Flower arrives ready for your viewing pleasure.
A case could be made that even in the salacious and over-the-top antics on display here, Flower has some precise and cutting commentary on how teenagers can easily spiral out-of-control without guidance, boundaries, and mentoring.
Flower may have great acting throughout, but this is as prickly and cynical a movie as I've seen in a good, long while.
I have no idea what the real point of this was, other than to craft a series of unfortunate and outrageous events, designed to make us feel uncomfortable, and then send us away thinking that the next generation is destined for failure.
Underage sex, bribery, blackmail, pedophilia, borderline incest, drug addiction, broken families, and bowling. Flower tries to bring all of this to viewers (and more!) in a caustic and sour-tasting screenplay and film.
We say we want our movies to be edgy. We say we want our movies to take more chances. We say we want our movies to push the boundaries more and not be so safe.
Be careful what you wish for, because now we have Flower, a "comedy" by Max Winkler (Henry's son), telling us the story of 17-year-old Erica (Zoey Deutch), a rudderless, careening girl who, along with best friends Kala (Dylan Gelula) and Claudine (Maya Eshet), blackmail older men for money after Erica performs oral sex on them. Documenting the trysts, Kala and Claudine threaten to release the footage unless the men pay up.
And wouldn't you know...they always do.
Erica is attempting to use her share of the money to pay bail for her imprisoned father, who she sees as a better option than the kind-hearted, dim, but perfectly mediocre Bob (Tim Heidecker), the year-long love interest and potential new husband of mother Laurie (Kathryn Hahn).
Also in the mix is Luke (Joey Morgan), Bob's 18-year-old son who is moving in with the family after a year-long stint in rehab recovering from an addiction to pills. Suffering from debilitating anxiety, Luke's symptoms came about when he accused a middle school teacher of fondling him years before. When the details regarding his abuse were found to be inconsistent, no charges were filed, the case was dismissed, and Luke has never been able to shake the stigma attached to him.
Are we not all laughing right now?!?!
Flower is rather reckless and immature in how it introduces all of these themes, positioning itself as a spunky, care free, whirlwind of bad behavior Winkler wants us to somehow marvel at. When a trip to the local bowling alley triggers a panic attack in Luke, Erica begins connecting dots and sees a handsome older guy named Will (Adam Scott) as her next conquest. The details surrounding Will's connection to everything complicates matters further and this whole subplot sends the movie spiraling further off the rails.
Deutch's performance is fearless, and she proves here that she is in one of the more talented young actors we have among us. And to be fair, Flower has great performances up and down the cast list. The acting is not the problem here, and Winkler truly has buy-in from his ensemble, despite the hyperbolic subject matter he is wrestling with. They can only do so much.
I kept asking myself, "what are we watching here?", with the answer not readily available. For people who think independent movies are often out-of-touch with reality and make a lot of noise without saying anything constructive or meaningful, Flower is a movie that accentuates those arguments.
Scene after scene, deplorable behavior takes place, and the movie never attempts to make us understand or have some rationale behind what we are seeing. Instead, Winkler, who co-wrote the movie with Matt Spicer (Ingrid Goes West), from an original screenplay and story by Alex McAulay, seems almost giddy in showing us Erica "rufi" someone's beer, offer fellatio to any man she meets, brawl with fellow students on the rare day she actually attends her high school, and keep a sketch pad of drawings of the erections from the men she has been with.
Ultimately, the movie wants to showcase all these actions as potentially some indictment on how we are complicit in leaving the social media generation behind, unsupervised, left to navigate through a more challenging and information-riddled world they can barely stay ahead of. If Flower had any desire to provide some depth and/or meaningful commentary to those stances, they movie might have some impact.
Instead, we see Erica do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, with no supervision or boundaries in place for her, and she acts accordingly. When a huge argument breaks out with her and her mother, Laurie blames Erica for intentionally running off guys she has liked in the past. As she excoriates her for bad behavior, the scene means nothing because there is no credibility to the point being argued. And before you say, "well, that is the point," the movie cues up Indie Rock Ballad #217 to to try and drum up emotions this movie never earns.
When Flower adds in one last absurd, pointless surprise to its buffet of terrible decisions and awful behavior, I simply put my head in my hands.
You see, this is, in some ways, the worst kind of movie. The film that thinks it's being so clever, but really just looks for more cheap, lazy, and salacious ways to make jaws drop and people murmur and mumble to themselves and others watching.
Increasingly noxious and off-putting, Flower may have some great individual performances (Zoey Deutch is the real deal, people), but this movie wilts quickly under the glare of scrutiny and common sense.
CAST & CREW
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Kathryn Hahn, Tim Heidecker, Joey Morgan, Adam Scott, Dylan Gelula, Maya Eshet, Eric Edelstein.
Director: Max Winkler
Written by: Alex McAulay, Matt Spicer, Max Winkler
Release Date: March 16, 2018