It’s not a frequent occurrence that I see an arthouse indie release with as few redeeming qualities as Flower. This is a film with a thoroughly implausible script, terrible characterization, an awful score and blatantly incompetent direction that, most damningly, has nothing to say. Now, I can forgive some missteps here or there from a low-budget production, but it’s been years since I was tasked with reviewing films that made me actively wish I was at my day job instead of screening something. Flower is just such a movie, one that takes an ensemble of B- and C-list actors that I typically find unobjectionable and makes me regret the fact that I ever considered their work even marginally passable.
That cast is led by Zooey Deutch, a starlet I’ve liked in the past and have no predisposition against. At 24, she’s playing a 17-year-old con artist from a broken family that uses her sexuality as a weapon to blackmail older men into giving her money in order to bail her dad out of jail. She also keeps a spreadsheet of all the men she’s ensnared and a notebook of sketches of their penises. Her mom, played by Kathryn Hahn — a character actress I typically enjoy — lends her tacit approval to these schemes without any awareness of their true ramifications or motivations. Now, at this point, you may be asking yourself: Is this supposed to be a black comedy? I certainly asked myself that question, and the only conclusion I could arrive at is that, if that was the intent, the movie missed the mark by a wide margin.
For starters, this is not a funny film. It’s humor seems to be largely unintentional, and the jokes that do attempt to play for more obvious laughs fall almost universally flat. Tim Heidecker, noted for a particular brand of off-kilter comedy, seems hung up on turning his role as an uncool stepdad into a dramatic turn when the script clearly doesn’t warrant such a treatment. Deutch’s relationship with her schlubby stepbrother (Joey Morgan), a socially awkward recovering addict, is presented quasi-comedically — and then he attempts suicide. Her crush on an older man she sees at the bowling alley (Adam Scott) seems like the setup for a romantic comedy — and then he turns out to be a former teacher disgraced for having molested a student. If your reaction to all of this is baffled disbelief, we’re in the same boat.
It’s not just the poor performances or the ham-fisted direction or execrable narrative that drag down Flower. It’s the aggregate awfulness that these factors combine to produce, like a miasma of vapid transgression with no purpose, that makes this a truly regrettable moviegoing experience. I doubt this film was intentionally bad, but it could scarcely have gotten closer to that mark had it tried. Rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nude drawings, some drug content, and a brief violent image.
Now playing at Grail Moviehouse.