Review: Bellflower (SXSW)
PLOT: Guy meets girl. They fall in love. They fall out of love. Guy builds flamethrower and Mad Max style car. Then things get really weird.
REVIEW: BELLFLOWER is the work of some very talented individuals. They will go on to bigger things and make much better movies than BELLFLOWER, a jumbled mess of a film that wastes its accomplished cast and crew.
The film starts fairly benignly enough. Two bohemian-type pals - one a boorish yet lovable lug named Aiden (Tyler Dawson) and his more subdued partner Woodrow (Evan Glodell, who also wrote and directed) - hang at a bar and achieve varied levels of drunkeness. Woodrow and manic pixie Milly meet-cute over a bar-sponsored cockroach eating contest (does that make it a meet-gross?) and love is in the air.
Hanging with Milly leaves less bro time for Aiden and Woodrow who've been building a flamethrower in their spare time. (Nevermind that all their time seems to be spare time as neither has a job nor any discernible income for these seemingly expensive flights of fancy.) This may be a source of tension in some movies but Aiden is accepting, though slightly concerned, when Woodrow and Milly drive to Texas on a whim on their first date and trade Woodrow's car, which dispenses whiskey out of the dashboard, for a motorcycle that looks post-apocalyptic. (How much hipster twee can you fit into one sentence?)
If you've lived, loved or seen any romantic film you know that when a girl warns you before accepting your request to be boyfriend/girlfriend that she "doesn't want to hurt you," she's probably planning on hurting you, whether intentionally or not. And so it happens. After Woodrow and Milly make sweet, sweet love, the former walks in on the latter having rather rough, rough sex with her male roommate.
The movie devolves into some wanna-be contemplation on male ego, aggression and a testosterone-laden culture as Woodrow sinks deeper into a post-Milly depression and Aiden tries to cheer him up by creating Medusa, a bitchin' ride that shoots flames and roars like a T-Rex. But Woodrow was just so in love with Milly! You know, that girl that he met at a bar, hooked up with and chilled with for a few days. But we're supposed to believe that her infidelities are breaking up a couple destined to be together. They just met! At a bar! Raise your hand if you took a girl out after a night of drinking and it didn't work out. Yeah. Not exactly a rare occurrence.
But to Woodrow this feels like the end of the world and he begins to act accordingly. He finishes his flamethrower, wrecks his motorcycle, drinks, makes not-so-veiled threats, has hate sex with Milly's roommate, drinks, glowers and sulks around before things end in a bloody and violent climax. Or do they?
The overlong 2nd act wants you to question a good deal of what came before it. What was real? What was imagined? And what, of all of this, does it say about young males and their propensity for violence and impulsiveness. Sadly it says very little.
Despite a script that borders on absurdity for most of its running time, Glodell displays a keen eye for visuals, all the more impressive given he shot the film with a Digital SLR camera. Acting is solid across the board, I only wish the characters the actors were provided with weren't so obnoxious. Perhaps the only comment the film successfully makes is that Aiden, the charming lout, turns out to be the only sympathetic one at film's end.