DVD Review: Flower (2017)

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Centering your film on a whip smart seventeen-year-old girl with a gift for rapid fire one-liners who uses her Deep Throatish oral fixation to blackmail the men in her town is a daring proposition indeed… and doubly so when it’s written and directed solely by men.

Of course, gender alone shouldn't automatically preclude men from telling the stories of young women as some of cinema’s best female monologues and roles have been penned by men.

Still, having your underage lead obsessively draw phalluses and proposition her troubled future stepbrother within an hour of meeting him while comparing her oral sex skills to that of The Horse Whisperer isn't exactly the stuff of John Hughes, even if it does fit in with the confrontational comedic brand of executive producers Jody Hill and Danny McBride, whose work is filled with problematic female characters.

And while all of this might've been okay had we even begun to scratch the surface of the character, aside from obvious daddy issues (including a scene where she tries to seduce and entrap a potential pedophile she'd dubbed a “hot old guy” while wearing a shirt emblazoned with the word “Daddy”) and a few throwaway lines referencing a past shrink, we’re mostly left scratching our heads.

Needless to say, on paper, everything about Flower shouldn't work and onscreen, it nearly doesn't, save for the megawatt performance by Zoey Deutch as the wildly uninhibited Erica. A star on the rise who's been the best thing in a number of projects including this year's Netflix uneven original movie Set It Up, in Flower, Deutch fills the screen with so much luminous energy that she probably saved the half million dollar indie a fortune in lighting costs.

Originally penned by young adult novelist Alex McAulay, Flower was named one on the Black List's best unproduced screenplays back in 2012. Reconfigured over time and co-written by its director Max Winkler as well as Ingrid Goes West co-writer/director Matt Spicer, while undeniably creative, this incarnation of Flower feels like what happens when three different puzzles wind up in the same box.

Despite some bright spots in the performances of not only Deutch but the film's entire supporting cast including Step Brothers costars Kathryn Hahn and Adam Scott (who don't share a single scene here), the pieces just don't fit.

Trading in her after school hobby of sexual blackmail to instead go after a potential predator at night, the film, much like Erica's noble yet misguided quest changes mightily from one scene to the next. Never sure of its approach, Flower has trouble adjusting to its pendulum swings in logic and tone.

While it's an unconventional choice to say the least, the decision to mix Erica's sexual coming-of-age (complete with a wide range of legally and socially unacceptable partners) with busting a sex offender offered Flower's writers ample opportunity to explore Erica's issues in a very real way... at least for a scene or two.

Regrettably more interested in fantasy than reality, as the film continues, Winkler and company attempt a shortcut and drop the ball. Muddying things up during a key sequence where both issues overlap, Flower takes on a sleazily voyeuristic vibe – temporarily turning Erica into an object instead of a three dimensional person. Though this is short-lived, the implausible wish fulfillment of Flower's third act misses the opportunity to set things right.

Bursting with ideas, at ninety minutes, Flower is chaotic and overstuffed. Less hit than miss, just like most flowers need only sunlight and water to thrive, Flower is proof that when you're dealing with serious issues and someone as talented as Deutch, Winkler should've taken a cue from nature, cut out all the excess and used less in order to say so much more.

Of course, a woman's point-of-view couldn't hurt.

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