I went into Max Winkler‘s Flower with every intention of liking it. The film’s aims are noble, yet its road map is grotesque and facile.
Flower opens (no pun intended) with a male, heavy breathing after an ejaculating (I should really stop this review here). Erica (Zoey Deutch), a 17-year old girl, has just given a sheriff a blowjob in a cop car. Her friends: Claudine (Maya Eshet) and Kayla (Dylan Gelula) roll to the car on their bikes, filming the encounter. The three extort the officer for $400
At that point, I wanted to run out of the theater like I was the only black guy at an all-white frat party. But since I was the sole person there, and the projectionist took the time to get the film going, I figured I might as well make the effort.
Yet as Flower totters off into oblivion, it does offer some scenic respites. The first being Erica’s home life. Her mother, Laurie (Kathryn Hahn), has recently become engaged to Bob (Tim Heidecker). Erica hates Bob because 1. He’s boring 2. He’s not her dad 3. Well, the first two reasons are the only ones she needs. Personally, I actually found Bob to be the single most interesting character in the film. I wish there’d been more exposition with Bob and Laurie’s relationship. Then again, we see the world through Erica’s eyes, and Erica doesn’t care.
Unfortunately, the film’s reliance on Erica’s perspective is its biggest flaw. Quite frankly, it sinks the film. Erica is an obnoxious, loud mouth, no-filter, no-bullshit teenager…who’s not believable under any of those flags. Every moment the character is on screen is another chance for her to obliviously blurt out any kinky, coy, inciting phrase that comes to her head, like offering her stepbrother a blowjob to ease his tension (we’ll get to him in a bit). But her offerings are meaningless because we can see them coming, and they’re so plentiful. It also doesn’t help that Deuth’s character seems like a Miley Cyrus clone.
But as I said, she has a stepbrother: Luke. Luke is leaving rehab after a pill addiction. He ended up there because his former teacher, Will (Adam Scott), fondled him. Luke’s suicidal tendencies, his loneliness, his obesity, his harassment are all worthy aspects to explore. But Winkler doesn’t do that. Instead, he represents Erica thinking up a half-baked plan to entrap Will by sleeping with him, so she can blackmail and turn him in. Her motives for doing this, as before she wanted nothing to do with Luke, are unclear. However, even here, Winkler shoots for the lowest common denominator.
This continues with Erica offering Luke blowjobs, and even a dance, which turns into her gesturing on a pole like a stripper. At every turn, a slightly creepy male gaze inhibits any chance at a redeeming story.
In short, the film is shallow.
We don’t get to find out anything noteworthy about Erica, only that she hates her stepdad and that she’s sucking Johns’ dicks to save up enough bail money for her jailbird dad. But that’s not a character. A character is more than the sum of their facts. A character has to invite empathy. Erica invites none, because Winkler doesn’t allow us to do so. Instead, all points of entry are closed with a half-ass smirk. The same could be said of Luke. Erica’s character never attempts to learn who Luke is. Hell, we never get a chance to know the guy. He remains a weirdo throughout the film, when there could have been so much more depth. Instead, Flower treats “depth” like Congress treats “compromise.”
In fact, there’s so little groundwork made for these characters’ feelings and thoughts that the major twist carries no significance. Mainly because we find that our heroine isn’t the hero at all. Instead, it’s Luke. Which means that we have an hour and a half movie solely about a girl who’s given no autonomy except the ability to suck dick. It’s a story that could have and would have been handled more gracefully had it been done by a female director.
Instead, Flower becomes a D-movie version of Natural Born Killers.
As the credits rolled, I became angry at myself for having stayed, angry that I’d have to write about this film, even angrier that I actually had to ponder a rating. Personally, ratings are secondary to me. I’d almost rather not give ratings, but they’re understandable attributes and most people aren’t willing to read this long (if you did, then thank you. You REALLY didn’t have to for this movie). But for this, I had to think of reasons NOT to give it a 0/4.
Reasons: The acting is pretty good across the board.
-Erica does get a couple of good zingers.
Aaaaaannnnnddddddd….that’s about it.
Usually, I’m a pretty soft grader, but those two things were only enough for Flower to warrant a 0.5/4.
Bin it in the same place you put your bouquet from Valentine’s Day.