Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
A Film That Thrives on Blowing Up in Your Face
Max Winkler, director and co-writer of Flower, only has one other directorial film to his name; a romantic comedy from 2010 entitled Ceremony starring the likes of Uma Thurman, Lee Pace, and Jake Johnson. Ceremony has become a must-see film solely because Flower is unlike any other R-rated comedy-drama being released in theaters. Flower is raunchy, crude, and sexually charged as you’ve come to expect from a film like this, but it basically kidnaps you and barrels completely off the rails into unexplored territory in its second half and that’s only partially because kidnapping is involved in that portion of the film.
The first time you see Erica (Zoey Deutch), she is giving fellatio to a cop named Dale (Eric Edelstein or Big Justin from Green Room). Erica and her two friends Kala (Dylan Gelula, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Claudine (Maya Eshet, Teen Wolf) use Erica’s status as a 17-year-old high school student to seduce adult men (solely with fellatio and not vaginal intercourse) before blackmailing them for all of their money. Erica has a spreadsheet filled with all of the clients she and her friends have screwed over along with how much money they’ve gotten from each client and an accompanying journal filled with illustrations of every phallic member that’s been in Erica’s mouth. Erica is saving up for something big and she is so incredibly close to her goal.
Erica’s mom Laurie (Kathryn Hahn) has plans to get married to her current boyfriend Bob (Tim Heidecker, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!) while Bob’s troubled son Luke (Joey Morgan) is fresh out of a stint at rehab. Erica is completely against a total stranger moving into her house, but Joey’s past is linked to an older guy at the bowling alley named Will (Adam Scott) who Erica has a crush on.
Max Winkler and co-writers Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer (Ingrid Goes West) make an incredibly loud statement about dysfunctional families in Flower. Erica is compensating for the father that was never around while Luke’s dad has the best of intentions, but has no idea how to properly provide for his troubled son. That void has left this hole in each character that they fill with sexual activities or pills, which ruins their reputations in different ways and sinks deeper than it has any right to.
There are sexual allegations in the film that will align with the downfall of many powerful men in Hollywood that have occurred recently, but Flower takes it a step further. Luke says that Will is a former teacher that molested him in high school so Erica’s plan is to bust him and send him to prison, but the execution is wobbly from the start and it not only backfires but snowballs into an explosive fireball of unpredictability.
Erica’s behavior is obnoxious from the start. Her unorthodox way of making money is something she came up with on her own and anything that gets in the way of that results in the equivalent of a teenage temper tantrum, which is essentially large strings of profanity and stomping off feeling like she’s owed something she isn’t. The presence of Luke softens Erica's character, making her a little less overbearing as Luke’s detachment to people altogether counterbalances Erica’s foul-mouthed demeanor. The direction the film takes with these two characters isn’t entirely out of leftfield, but is the absolute opposite of what is socially acceptable. Max Winkler and the cast of Flower have an enormous pair of balls to take comedy and drama into territory many aren’t willing to venture into.
Flower is a film that may not be worth revisiting after the initial viewing, but deserves some sort of praise for following through with not only taking that left turn but also riding it out until it comes to a complete stop after plummeting off a steep cliff. The characters are disgustingly flawed and yet feel authentic due to their simple desires. The method in which Flower addresses absent and absent-minded fathers is also intriguing. Flower is an unusual comedic drama that tackles taboo subject matter with a bloody nose and a smile on its face.
© 2018 Chris Sawin