Tag Archives: indie comedy

Flower (2018)

26 Mar

No subgenre of film is so elusive as the indie teenage romantic comedy.  Take some time to browse through any program guide of SXSW or Sundance from the last two decades and you’ll see that independent film history is rich with varied examples of offbeat and angsty teens falling in and out of love. Sometimes, it works (look no further than the aptly titled First Girl I Loved or the nuanced sleeper The Spectacular Now) but more often than not, you end up with a smorgasbord of character tropes, bad sex jokes, and dialogue from writers who’ve seemingly forgotten how teenagers actually behave.  It’s common knowledge that teens are complicated – why is it so hard for their films to be as well?

In Flower, the painful combo of teen-romance-movie-misfires intercedes with gags about sexual assault and pedophillia. Because nothing says funny like trying to figure out if a highschool teacher is into little boys or little girls.

The film starts of with a cop engaging in felatio with our underage hero Erica (Zoey Deutch) who then blackmails him in exchange for cash. We then learn that Erica has made a habit of engaging with older men and then blackmailing them in order to save up enough to bail out her absent father from jail. If you are questioning Erica’s motives here don’t worry, she literally tells a stranger she has daddy issues, just in case there was any confusion to the audience. Her distant mother (Kathryn Hahn) has been dating guy-after-guy ever since her Erica’s father was locked up, and she finally settles with generic Bob (Tim Heidecker) whose son Luke (Joey Morgan) has just graduated rehab and is about to live with the family, much to Erica’s disdain.

There is also a shoehorned subplot here about the aforementioned child-molester (Adam Scott doing his usual shtick) but the heart of the story rests with Erica and Luke’s relationship as new step-siblings from very different worlds trying to get along with each other.  Erica is popular, outgoing, and has a nifty group of friends; Luke is introverted, lonely, into comic books and prone to panic attacks.

Flower tries to be a subversive take on the paint-by-numbers teen sex comedy, but more often than not the jokes fall flat and the characters seem out of place and counterfeit. Erica is such a bad example of the white-rebel-naughty-girl trope that it would be satirical if the film was more self-aware; I was expecting the production design to feature a poster of Harley Quinn on her bedroom wall, but nope – just your typical PARENTAL ADVISORY sign.  Luke, thanks entirely to Joey Morgan’s performance (easily the best thing about this movie), is a bit more tolerable when he isn’t being fed nonsensical lines of dialogue. But even our subdued foil to our protagonist is subject to one of the most bizzare tonal shifts as the movie stumbles into it’s hasty third act. Watching the final segment of Flower is a bit like watching a youtube clip of a drag race where the car starts skidding out of control – you know it’s going to crash and burn eventually but you have to keep watching in order to see how it all goes down.

Bottom Line: Instead of the authentic examination of teenage sexuality it tries to be, Flower is a cringe-worthy and awkward take that tries to get a pass with an inexcusably-awful third act. 

Rating: 4.1 /10

Film Recipe: Juno + Hard Candy + Never Goin’ Back 

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Buzzard (2015)

6 Jun

Richard Linklater‘s seminal debut Slacker introduced a new kind of anti-hero into the world of indie cinema. A weird mix blend between bum and punk, these jobless but idealistically carefree characters live from one moment to the next without any regard for modern societal structures aka – “The Man”.  Almost 25 years later, and the slacker persona is still going strong, albeit in a the form of our metalhead protagonist Marty (Joshua Burge).

Directed by Joel Potrykus, Buzzard  is a sort of reincarnation of the early 90’s mumblecore. While the film feels ridiculously low budget, Potrykus takes his serious DIY attitude to the filmmaking process and his passion for his characters shines through.

Marty is your ultimate deadbeat. He is a temp at a banking chain where he spends his time trying to cut corners and make a spare buck or two by stealing company supplies and reselling them at OfficeMax. His seemingly only friend is coworker Derek (played by Potrykus), a videogame obsessed manchild living in the self-proclaimed “Party Zone” which is really just code for his parent’s basement. Things get hairy for Marty when a scheme to cheat his company out of a few bucks pathetically backfires and forces Marty to be on the run from the law.

Buzzard is a film teeming with brilliant, original, and often hilariously awkward and confrontational ideas about anti-capitalism and deadbeat culture. The cinematic execution of these ideas is where Buzzard falls short. Potrykus is a very gifted writer and his enthusiasm for his characters is obvious. However, his moments on-screen as a character are mostly awfully-acted and the bromance between him and Burge fails to resonate. Buzzard is an amateur production and it sadly shows in everything from the makeup to the lighting to the editing.

However, there is something uniquely charming about Buzzard and especially Burge’s portrayal of Marty that makes the film a compelling watch. It starts of with a bang of energy set to heavy metal that gently escalates into violence. The third act surpassingly makes a sad but sincere attempt at bringing out the emotional core of the story; it would have worked perfectly if the film had been given a solid editing treatment.

Bottom line: If you can stomach the student-level acting and production, Buzzard is an authentically funny entertaining film reminiscent of early 90’s indies. It also showcases huge potential for director Joel Potrykus and actor Joshua Burge.

Rating: 6/10

Film Recipe: Napoleon Dynamite (2004) + Clerks (1994)