It was only about five minutes into Max Winkler's that I fell in love with Flower, a fact that may seem surprising when the film's first scene involves 17-year-old Erica (Zoey Deutch) going down on a local cop while her nearby friends videotape the episode for blackmail purposes.
It says a lot about Deutch's performance that such a scene is, in fact, merely the first in a series of scenes that make you fall in love with Deutch's sexually curious, bitchy young woman whose life is in disarray thanks to her mother's impending marriage and her biological dad's incarceration.
Her mom, played to perfection by Kathryn Hahn, is the kind of woman you can identify with - an essentially good-hearted soul who chose badly the first time but really wants a chance to choose again. That's difficult with a daughter like Erica, who manages to sabotage the majority of her mother's relationships but is tossed a curve her latest guy, Bob (Tim Heidecker), isn't easily tossed aside and, in fact, seems to be everything her mom has ever wanted.
There's one more add-in to the equation, Bob's son Luke (Joey Morgan), who's been away at rehab and whose return to the family homestead adds a tension to the household as Luke is an emotionally wounded, anxiety-ridden and stress-eating young man with a background that makes him both compelling and the kind of guy you tend to look away from when he crosses your path.
Flower is produced by Rough House, the team comprised of Jody Hill, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green, and it's infused with the kind of razor sharp, pitch dark, yet emotionally resonant material we've come to expect from them. The film opens in Indianapolis on March 30th at the Landmark Keystone Art Cinema from indie distributor The Orchard, the perfect home for this bold, funny yet disturbingly honest film that takes difficult to love characters and makes you love them.
The film soars on the strength of the unexpected friendship that blossoms between Erica and Luke, an unlikely duo until you begin to realize that what drives both of them makes them more alike than different. Director Max Winkler isn't afraid to really explore both those similarities and differences, taking the script he penned alongside Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer (Ingrid Goes West) in directions deeply rooted in reality yet fantastic in manifestation.
Flower offers a tremendous performance by Deutch, infused with playful yet realistic raunch accompanied by a healthy dose of innocence and even an endearing sweetness. Joey Morgan's turn as Luke often reminded me of Hank Harris's criminally underrated turn in the equally pitch black Pumpkin, a film that has never received its due. As the parents fumbling their way toward some semblance of responsibility, both Kathryn Hahn and Tim Heidecker are stellar here with Heidecker's Bob getting the short end of the stick in terms of character development. There's also a rather jarring turn by Adam Scott as Will, a high school teacher and alleged creepster whose presence here is left uncomfortably open ended in the best, and most disturbing, of ways.
Flower was nominated for the jury award at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and is one of those films where you almost wish you could've sat in on the pitch meetings because you can't help but picture everyone mouthing "WTF?" With an exceptional musical accompaniment by Joseph Stephens and Carolina Costa's top notch lensing, Flower is already sitting atop my list of 2018's best and most perfectly realized comedies.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic