'Flower': Film Review | Tribeca 2017

Flower - Still 1 - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival
The charming Deutch is the best thing about this contrived comedy.

Zoey Deutch plays a rebellious teen who blackmails older men in Max Winkler's dark comedy.

There’s nary a believable moment in Max Winkler’s edgy dark comedy about a rebellious teen girl who’s clearly meant to be amusingly crass but instead comes across as emotionally disturbed. Uneasily combining its determinedly edgy plotline with failed sentimentality, Flower is redeemed only by Zoey Deutch’s magnetic performance, which would be star-making if in the service of a better vehicle. The film, which also squanders the talents of such reliable comic pros as Kathryn Hahn and Adam Scott, recently received its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Deutch plays 17-year-old Erica, who earns money to bail her father out of prison by blackmailing older men after fellating them. Abetted by her best friends (Dylan Gelula, Maya Eshet) who film the illicit proceedings on their cellphones, Erica doesn’t exactly mind her chosen avocation. Indeed, she happily offers oral sex to nearly any man who comes across her path, and, judging by her lavishly illustrated notebook, seems to have an obsession with penises. (The film’s screenplay, written by Winkler, Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer, apparently intends this to be an endearing character trait.)

Erica’s life, which consists mainly of hanging out at the bowling alley with her friends and ogling an older guy they deem “hot” (if you drank a shot every time one of the female characters utters that word, you’d be drunk within minutes), becomes upended by the arrival of Luke (Joey Morgan), the teenage son of her mother’s (Hahn) dorky new boyfriend (Tim Heidecker). Severely overweight and depressed, Luke has just been released from rehab, and his troubled past includes apparently having been sexually molested by one of his teachers. Although resenting the interloper’s presence in her life, Erica is sympathetic enough to offer her future stepbrother a blowjob.

It turns out that the older guy at the bowling alley, Will (Scott), is the man that Luke had accused. So Erica sets a plot in motion to get revenge on Luke’s behalf by seducing Will and making sure he gets the punishment he deserves. The elaborate plot proves disastrous, with the result that Erica and Will are forced to go on the lam to Mexico.

Erica, defined by such quirks as owning a pet rat, never comes across as a remotely credible character. But that’s in keeping with the film’s entirely contrived nature in which everything seems designed for comic shock value. Winkler, whose previous effort was 2010’s equally forced Ceremony, fails to provide the tonal consistency necessary to put the outlandish characters and situations over.

Made watchable only by its young star’s sexy charisma and the solid turns by the supporting cast, Flower seems less like it was designed to appeal to rebellious teenagers than made by one.

Production companies: Rough House Pictures, Diablo Entertainment, Metal Works Pictures
Cast: Zoey Deutch, Kathryn Hahn, Tim Heidecker, Adam Scott, Joey Morgan, Dylan Gelula, Maya Eshet, Eric Edelstein, Romy Byrne
Director: Max Winkler
Screenwriters: Alex McAulay, Max Winkler, Matt Spicer
Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Sean Tabibian, Brandon James, Matt Spicer
Executive producers: Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, Jody Hill, Shaul Dina, Dustin Diouhy, Shawn Ebra, Justin Farajzadeh, Gaby Gabrielzadeh, David Hakimfar, David Tahour Cyrus, Ilana Zahabian, Andrew Levitas
Director of photography: Carolina Costa
Production designer: Tricia Robertson
Editors: Jeff Seibenick, Sarah Beth Shapiro
Costume designer: Michelle Thompson
Composer: Joseph Stevens
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival
(U.S. Narrative Competition)

87 minutes