Film: Bellflower

January 20, 2013

I kind of wish I’d read the description more closely on this one.  Evidently Bellflower (2011) was a surprise Sundance hit, but I have a hard time seeing why.  A low budget indie with experimental qualities, the film looked like it might have an SF angle, but its characters’ interest in post-Apocalypse worlds turns out to a pretentious metaphor for male heartbreak.  The execution is visually interesting, but the message is ugly.

L.A. best friends Woodrow (writer-director Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are lifelong best buds, fascinated with Mad Max.  They spend their copious free time jury-rigging pyrotechnics in preparation for the collapse of civilization.  One night they hit the bars looking for action, and Woodrow finds himself drawn to a free-spirited party girl named Milly (Jessie Wiseman).  A sign they’re meant for each other:  when she asks him what he does, he answers, “I’m building a flamethrower,” and she’s into that.  Their first date is a spontaneous, drunken cross-country road trip to a Texas greasy spoon.  The relationship blossoms at first, but soon falls apart, sending Woodrow into a destructive tailspin.

Bellflower layers a grimy filter over its eroding Los Angeles setting, which makes for a striking look, but unfortunately that’s the film’s only real strength.  The acting, especially from the male leads, is amateurish and the semi-improvisational dialogue doesn’t do the players any favors.  Fatally, Woodrow and Aiden are incredibly unlikeable, reckless and irresponsible twenty-something jackasses who kind of get what’s coming to them — but then we’re supposed to relate to them.  What?  Jessie Wiseman has more charisma than the rest of the cast combined, but her role is thankless, in service to a misogynistic message and unsympathetic bromance.  To be avoided.

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