Monday, April 24, 2017

“Flower”– Movie Review


This weekend at The Tribeca Film Festival, I attended the World Premiere of the new comedy-drama, “Flower”, starring Zoey Deutch, Kathryn Hahn and Adam Scott. 


When teenagers go too far in an attempt to seek revenge on a neighborhood man, will they eventually wind up in prison for his murder? 


Erica (Deutch) and her friends are a group of perfectly normal seventeen year olds from southern California – assuming, of course, you consider teenage girls extorting money from older men by taking photographs of them in compromising situations with the girls to be “perfectly normal”.  Otherwise, they’re a pretty out of control bunch.  As their leader, it’s understandable why Erica is so wild – her father is currently doing time in prison for armed robbery and her mother Laurie (Hahn) is so lax, she doesn’t have much in the way of parental skills.  

Laurie announces that her boyfriend Bob (Tim Heidecker) is moving in with her and bringing with him his teenage son Luke (Joey Morgan).  Luke is a real piece of work.  Just coming out of a rehabilitation center, this obese teenager about a year older than Erica is emotionally fragile.  His story is that he got one of his teachers in trouble by accusing him of sexual molestation; when Luke’s story failed to hold up under further scrutiny, he only wound up getting himself in deeper tribulation.  With few friends to begin with, Luke has only served to make himself more isolated. 

The local bowling alley is a refuge for Erica and her pals; there, they swoon over Will (Adam Scott), a “hot” older guy Erica wants to add to her collection.  Erica’s feelings about Will change when she learns he’s the teacher Luke tried to report.  Together, they formulate a plan where Erica will seduce him and her friends would take photos of him with her, which they could use to bribe him.  However, the plans go awry; when Will passes out from a sedative, he falls down and seriously hurts himself.  Unaware as to the extent of his injuries, the teenagers proceed with their scheme to take compromising pictures with him.  But when it’s found out that Will died from his wound, can Erica and Luke escape justice or will they both wind up serving a prison sentence of their own?  


Simply put, the fundamental problem that “Flower” has is the fact that its protagonist is unsympathetic.  There is precious little – arguably nothing – that is done throughout much of the movie that changes the viewer’s opinion.  In a dramatic narrative such as this, the filmmaker essentially wants to have a protagonist in whom the audience can have some degree of an emotional investment.  Lacking this, the audience must reasonably wonder for whom are we to root in this film?  One might make the case that the most sympathetic characters are either the mother or her boyfriend, but it’s not their story.     

When a movie opens by presenting the protagonist in an unflattering light, there are certain things that must be done to change the audience’s view to make the protagonist’s story one worth caring about.  One way this can be done is by relentlessly punishing the character throughout much of the rest of the tale to the point that the viewers will feel that the protagonist has suffered enough and now is worthy of the audience’s support.  “Flower” rejects this notion and therein lies its failing; instead, it doubles down on reinforcing how evil the character is, then making an attempt at sympathy at the end.  It might be reasonably debated that a great motion picture like “Raging Bull” can be made when its protagonist is an unsympathetic character; a fair point, but remember that “Raging Bull” was a biopic while the protagonist of “Flower” is fictional. 

Following the screening was a question and answer session with director Max Winkler.  Winkler said that what drew him to this screenplay was the fact that it reminded him of many of John Hughes’ movies from the 1980’s.  At 33 years of age, Winkler admitted that Hughes’ style of coming of age films was deep in his DNA and that’s why the story struck a nerve with him.  Since the story was about a teenage girl, Winkler said that he decided to hire an all female crew as well; he felt that maintaining the women’s perspective in the motion picture would help to keep him more honest in his storytelling. 

Flower (2017) on IMDb


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