Flower

Studio: The Orchard
Directed by Max Winkler

Mar 15, 2018 Web Exclusive
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Anyone walking into Flower expecting the indie comedy advertised in its trailers will get a bit more than they bargained for. The film opens with protagonist Erica Vandross, a seventeen year-old high school student, blowing a cop in the front seat of his car before her friends pop out of the bushes with their iPhones and immediately blackmail him for the contents of his checking account. From that provocative starting point the film goes on to tackle child molestation, quasi-incestual relationships and murder as Erica attempts to help her new stepbrother get revenge on someone that wronged him.

All of that sounds very serious, but it’s a testament to director and co-writer Max Winkler - son of Henry - that Flower manages to stay charming and light on its feet for most of its runtime. On paper the film feels like Juno by way of Hard Candy, but the film’s execution is more reminiscent of the work of its producers Matt Spicer, Jody Hill and Danny McBride. Spicer wrote and directed last year’s excellent Ingrid Goes West, which also features a young woman wreaking havoc on the lives of everyone she encounters. But where Ingrid was a desperate, barely functioning emotional wreck, Erica is a slicker, slyer manner of miscreant. In spite of her looks and age, she’s shot through with the obnoxious, give-no-fucks bravado that Hill and McBride brought to the characters in Eastbound and Down and Vice Principals. Brazenly amoral and supremely confident in every terrible impulse that enters her head, Erica is the type of character women rarely get to play, especially as a protagonist. Embodied by the expressive and engaging Zoey Deutch, Erica is an excellent marriage of character and performer. For all the terrible things she does - which range from reverse-gender negging to wearing socks with sandals to actual felonies - Deutch keeps Erica enjoyable and relatable, delivering every insult and reaction shot with a twinkle in her eye.

Although Deutch is the clear tour de force in the film, Winkler has assembled an impressive supporting cast around her. The always welcome Kathryn Hahn plays Erica’s mother and does an excellent job of selling their bizarre, but charming relationship, which makes them seem more like sisters than mother and daughter. Tim Heidecker plays her wet blanket of a stepfather and newcomer Joey Morgan brings an air of sad humanity to her equally pathetic stepbrother. Most surprising and effective is the against-type casting of Adam Scott as a potential child molester, allowing his well-established milquetoast persona to complicate his character’s intentions and actions.

Flower never fully reconciles its disturbing subject matter with its sunny, upbeat tone. The contrast is sharp enough during the first half of the film to seem deliberate, but the film builds to a surprisingly rosy conclusion that feels a bit too lenient toward both the characters and the audience. The third act features a major emotional payoff that feel rushed and random, and the film ends up ditching the brash cynicism of its set-up for a finale that verges on being corny. But any miscalculations in tone or narrative are well worth the opportunity to spend ninety minutes with Deutch, who brings a tremendous amount of depth, humor and energy to a character that feels like a breath of fresh air amid the obnoxiously quirky sad-sacks that populate so many indie comedies. 

Author rating: 7/10

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Marius Rudac
October 8th 2018
9:10am

It’s incredible what happens when the wildly inaccurate conjectures that adolescent boys have about adolescent girls are allowed to flourish like on flower websites boston ma, unchecked, all the way until said adolescent boy is a grown man given the keys to a quirky indie movie. Erica and her friends have a running scam in which they record her orally servicing all manner of grown men around town, and use the footage to extort money from them. You know, teen stuff. A few hundred here and there, which Erica dutifully stashes away in a fund whose purpose we are not immediately let in on.