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Review: Flower

March 23, 2018

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

At the beginning of Flower, the 17-year-old Erica (Zoey Deutch) is in a cop car, giving a blow job to a local cop (Eric Edelstein).  This is all part of a money-making scheme, where she pursues sexual encounters with middle aged men, and has her two friends Kala (Dylan Gelula) and Claudine (Maya Eshet) film the encounters, so that they can blackmail the men for money.

Erica needs the cash to bail her father out of jail, but her life gets a whole lot more complicated when her mother Laurie’s (Kathryn Hahn) boyfriend Bob (Tim Heidecker) brings his son Luke (Joey Morgan) to live with them.

Luke is a troubled teen who has just gotten out of rehab, and when he reveals that his problems stem from being abused by a former teacher named Will (Adam Scott), whom Erica sees at the local bowling alley, she decides to take matters into her own hands by seducing him and getting photographic evidence.  But this plan inevitably starts to spiral out of control, and it’s only a matter of time before things take a dark turn.

Directed by Max Winkler, working from a script that he co-wrote with Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer, Flower is an offbeat film that aims for a mix of quirky humour and pitch black satire, and it works less and less as it goes along.  The film has an intriguing premise about how far you should go in terms of taking justice into your own hands regarding sexual predators, which takes on added shades of grey in the #MeToo era, but the execution is flawed.

I was rolling with the film for about the first act, but then the questionable decisions that it makes start to pile up, and eventually we are left with a film that bites off more than it can chew and struggles to provide answers to the complex questions that it raises.  It lacks the depth that would have been needed to make this premise work, and ultimately feels like it has an identity crisis, oscillating between oddball comedy and vigilante drama.  The film goes almost completely off the rails in the last act when it becomes a really awkward romance, before wrapping things up with an overly pat resolution.

One of the biggest problems with Flower is that the character of Erica is far too one-note for the film to really work.  The screenplay keeps trying to make her bubbly and likeable, when in reality she is clearly damaged, and should be messier and more flawed.  Erica is instead presented as one of those relentlessly quirky indie characters, who only really exists in fantasy.  You know the type.  She draws artsy sketches of every dick she sucks and has a pet rat named Titty Boy.  The film tries so hard to make her seem cute and appealing, even when she is doing some very twisted things, and it’s a balance that even an actress as talented as Zoey Deutch fails to make fully believable.

I watched Flower the other night, and I’ve found myself less sold on the film the more that I think about it.  It has some interesting themes, and the performances are generally solid, but the film starts to strain credibility partway through, and doesn’t really stick the landing.

Flower is now playing in limited release at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas in Toronto.

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