In recent years, much has been said about the teenage experience through satirical black comedy films. “Flower,” directed by Max Winkler, falls neatly into this category with the young protagonist’s angsty and rebellious behavior. But while “Flower” offers an unpredictable and captivating viewing experience, it does little to impact audiences or resolve their questions beyond curtain close.
Erica (Zoey Deutch) is 17, boisterously and sexually confident and annoyed that her mom (Kathryn Hahn) is dating a man (Tim Heidecker) whom she finds particularly boring. Unlike Erica’s own father, her mom’s boyfriend is in jail awaiting bail. Her relationship with her mom is unconventional, the two of them acting more as gossipy roommates than the archetypal mother-daughter dynamic.
For fun, Erica spends time hanging out at the bowling alley as well as blackmailing perverted men in her community for money, which she then puts toward her father’s bail. The film opens with her and her friends acting as vigilantes by blackmailing a police officer caught on camera with a minor –– Erica. This soon serves as the main conflict of the film, which follows the group threatening a man (Adam Scott) that Erica’s soon-to-be step-brother (Joey Morgan) accused of molestation. You know, typical teenage fun.
From there, each scene seems to deviate further from the one before it, surprising viewers with each shifting setting. In this regard, “Flower” is a remarkably original film in both plot outline and development. Its cinematic execution on the other hand? Not so much.
Though “Flower” presents a movie that transitions from a coming-of-age story to drama to thriller, it does so in a rather clunky manner, which only undercuts the significance of the more theatrical moments. It may entertain, but it does not enthrall viewers in the way it hopes. When it ends after a series of out-of-left-field plot points, viewers may feel a sense of longing for the film that could have been, if only it were better executed.
“Flower” boasts deft and nuanced performances from its cast, such as the riveting Deutch who captures the audience’s attention despite the confusion that builds from scene to scene. Hahn who excels in depicting an often ignored mother-daughter bond and all its complexities. Aesthetically, the film is visually pretty and creates a unique subconscious disparity between the summer sun and the darker story arc.
“Flower” premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and opened in theaters in New York on Mar. 16.
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