Film: Bellflower

I 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 unlikable, reckless and irresponsible twenty-something jackasses who kind of get what’s coming to them. But 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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