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Flower (2017)

Lionsgate
DVD Released: 6/19/2018

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/22/2018

There are several topics about which we could say, "If aliens were to watch a movie about this, they would think ______." One thing which comes to mind is adolescence and, more specifically, high school. Granted, for some people, high school is a very tough time, whether due to social issues, physical changes, or simply the academics. If aliens were to watch most movies about high school, they would assume that it was the absolute worst time and place in the life of a human being and they would most likely wonder how anyone could survive it. It can hopefully be argued that there are those who actually enjoyed high school. But, of course, that doesn't make for good drama. It appears that movie would rather show us damaged teenagers, such as those portrayed in Flower.

As Flower opens, we are introduced to teenagers Erica (Zoey Deutch), Kala (Dylan Gelula), and Claudine (Maya Eshet), as they are participating in one of their pass-times. This involves having Erica engage in a sexual act with an older man who is subsequently blackmailed for money. Erica lives with her mother, Laurie (Kathryn Hahn), and her mom's fiance, Bob (Tim Heidecker). This already awkward situation is made even stranger when Bob's son, Luke (Joey Morgan), comes home from being in rehab for a year. Erica, who has no personal boundaries, tries to be nice to Luke, but the kid is simply overwhelmed with being back out in the world. Erica is slowly able to get Luke out of his shell, but thing go awry when he claims to spot the man who molested him as a child. Erica decides that pursuing this man will be the ultimate blackmail.

To put it very simply, Flower is a weird movie. Those of you looking for a feel-good indie comedy will immediately have your hopes dashed, as the movie opens with a very uncomfortable scene. From there, the movie rolls out a series of awkward moments, as we witness Erica's odd life. Her mother is more interested in being a friend than a parent. Bob is very civil towards Erica, but she can be cold to him. Some of those aspects of the film are very cliched. The arrival of Luke is unusual, as his depressed demeanor is the exact opposite of Erica's bubbly exuberance, although both have deep-seeded issues. The first two acts presents some unusual things but they follow a fairly standard pattern. The third act takes the movie in a different direction, one which is not only a shift from the first part of the film, but something which borders on being unrealistic. It's as if the finale goes out of its way to show just how damaged Erica is.

Flower is a wildly uneven film, which doesn't meet any of its presumed goals. Again, there is an air about the film which makes it seem as if it may be a comedy. There are a few humorous moments, but calling this a comedy would be inaccurate. Despite a somewhat light tone in the first half of the film, this is decidedly a drama, and not a very happy one. If you aren't put off by the film's opening, then Erica's overall nihilism, then her cavalier attitude towards sex may shake you. The introduction of Luke brings things down even farther, given that he'd rather be dead or back in rehab. The first half of the film is a character study of these lost souls. The second half turns in a quasi-crime caper which then morphs into a Bonnie & Clyde situation.

It's completely understandable that Flower may be a depressing movie, but it's as if the movie itself doesn't realize this. And the movie seems to be challenging us at every turn to engage with the story and characters. Are there really teenage girls like Erica who don't know how to have healthy relationships, mostly due to their upbringing? Of course there are. Flower wants us to feel sorry for Erica and support her mission, but it's nearly impossible to do so. Director Max Winkler (son of Henry Winkler) has spend most of his career directing television shows, and it's clear that sustaining a compelling story over the course of a feature film. The story and the tone don't work here, but the acting is good. Deutch does a great job of portraying a girl who doesn't know how to not flirt and her performance feels very genuine. If you go into Flower knowing that it's not a fun film, your reaction may be more positive, but be warned that the overall result will be a disappointing one.

Flower makes blackmail look way too easy on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and transfer has been enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture is somewhat soft compared to the 4K UHD to which we've become accustomed and the depth is acceptable. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. For the most part, we only get center and front channel sound here, but the finale does provide some noticeable surround sound effects.

The lone extra feature on the Flower DVD is an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Max Winkler and Zoey Deutch.

Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long