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.