Flower (2018)

Probably the most disappointing movie I’ve seen all year, I probably would have shut “Flower” off midway were it not for the great turn by Zooey Deutch. Deutch has become a rising star in film, never failing to be charming, charismatic, funny, and beautiful. She’s one of the survivors of Disney television whose managed to convey some genuine humanity and appeal in a variety of roles ever since. It’s just a shame she got saddled with such a mean, vicious, and despicable dark drama romance that’s about as demented as it gets. “Flower” feels like the writers tried to combine Diablo Cody and Larry Clarke in to one twisted freak of a film, and man does it suck.

I’ll be honest I went in to “Flower” expecting something in the realm of “Diary of a Teenage Girl” or “Edge of Seventeen,” but it’s so much more convoluted and aimless in its delivery, and veers head first in to dark drama so abruptly the “demented romance” pictured feels painfully tacked on. Deutch plays Erica, a girl bordering on underage who, for whatever reason, seduces men and convinces them to allow her to have sex with them. When she records the sex, she threatens to out them unless they pay her money. She’s saving for the bail for her father who is in prison, and convinces herself she’s committing to some kind of valiant crusade where the ends justify the means. Meanwhile her mom in getting engaged with a man who she dislikes, and is forced in to conversing with her soon to be step brother who has anxiety and mental illness issues.

When she realizes a local from the bowling alley might have molested him she sets out to also seduce him and out him to the police. “Flower” has such a long winded premise because it just seems to pile on to what is such a nonsensical narrative. Its characters are all vile and obnoxious and the writing spends much of its time trying to circle around and provide rationale for the way they act, and why they’re such loathsome individuals. Whether it’s Erica and her irritating daddy issues and insufferable selfishness, and brother Luke’s inability to tell the truth at any point, the way “Flower” comes around to the finale is just horrible. So much of “Flower” is inexplicable, from Erica seducing Adam Scott’s character, suddenly falling in love with him, the disastrous set up involving roofies in beer, and the way both characters suddenly seem to get over viciously murdering someone all because, gee golly, they’re both broken and bonded, doncha know?

“Flower” wants to be this hippy dippy coming of age drama, a dark comedy, a murder mystery, and this fractured romance, and fails at every turn. It tacks on so much garbage to the paper thin screenplay and spends too much time on its mean spirited plot twists, rather than trying at any point to turn these characters in to empathetic consequences of bad parenting. In fact in the final half when Erica gets news on her father, the big reveal feels more like a Nelson Muntz “Haw haw!” moment rather than a tragic realization. Which makes the climax even more heinous as Luke might just be a sociopathic liar, while Erica a perpetual victim who has convinced herself she’s in some ideal romance. And well, they murdered a man. But that’s okay! They’re in love. I’d love to read the original screenplay, as the overhauled reworking is a mess from head to toe. As for Deutch, she’s a great actress stuck in a bad film.