'Flower' film review: Dark twists, sharp wit can't save this wilted clunker
Categorizing the indie flick "Flower" (playing in select cities March 23) is difficult - mostly because this film simply cannot decide what it is or where it is going. It's difficult to remain engaged with an aimless story that takes absurd turns, anchored by a distant protagonist who never truly connects with the audience.
"Flower" is barely more than 90 minutes long and it still takes a little too long to get its story moving along. Great films that are less than 100 minutes long fire out of the gates, whereas "Flower" spends its first act tediously establishing its characters - taking almost a half hour before the story finally starts to form.
The engine of "Flower" is its protagonist, the morally flexible wild child Erica. She is first introduced as a blackmailing high school girl who happily embraces her reputation as a self-proclaimed whore. As the story unfolds, her odd family relationships (with her estranged father, irresponsible mother, "uncool" stepfather and unstable stepbrother) define traits about Erica ... but the film never successfully explores her inner character: what internally compels her. "Flower" shows off her sexual experiences and quick wit - but the film never solidly establishes her value system, which makes it difficult to genuinely empathize with her. This puts her at an arm's length from the audience -- which becomes a serious problem because Erica's actions drive the plot forward.
The movie's wayward vibe constantly leaves the audience wondering "where is this going?" It's never clear where "Flower" is ultimately headed. Is it a coming-of-age story about a sexually mature young girl? Is it a revenge drama? The fact that Erica is burdened with several b-plots does not help. The end of the second act (in a plot twist that is based entirely in dumb luck) spins the third act in an entirely new direction ... one that is utterly preposterous. The resolution, where characters legitimately face life-altering stakes, is somehow unsatisfying and even the closing moments manage to undermine the consequences of the aforementioned stakes.
For a movie that wades into some dark territory - suicide, sexual assault and pedophilia - "Flower" has a tonality problem. The characters - mainly Erica - glibly dance though a blackmail/revenge story focused on a sex predator. The film's execution has the tone and tenor of an indie drama, but the dialogue is peppered with fat jokes and blowjob gags. Better films have more cohesively married comedically crude and moody dramatic elements, but "Flower" mishandles the two contrasting tones, so the two never mix quite right.
Final verdict: Between the wandering plot and the fact that this film cannot decide whether it is a comedy or a drama, "Flower" is indecisive on virtually every front.
"Flower" opens in select cities March 23. This comedy has a running time of 93 minutes and is rated R for crude sexual content and language throughout, graphic nude drawings, some drug content, and a brief violent image.