Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bellflower

Grade: 26 (D+)

Some movies take a long time to go somewhere. Bellflower is a movie that takes forever to go nowhere. When something of consequence finally happens, it makes the soul yearn for nothing again. Written, directed by, and starring first-time filmmaker Evan Glodell, Bellflower is a unique film, an odd mix between a mumblecore romance (or bromance) in the vein of Humpday, a Mad Max-style action movie, and a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-style assault on the senses. It is a wildly audacious, singular debut. It is also a terrible, terrible movie.

Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are a couple of twenty-something friends obsessed with The Road Warrior. The two have dedicated their lives to building a flamethrower and a muscle-car. They believe that when the apocalypse comes, they will “awesome” enough to be in charge. Things change when Woodrow meets Millie (Jessie Wiseman) at a bar during a cricket-eating contest. Woodrow and Millie fall in love, or at least infatuation, and spend all of their time together. But as Millie tires of Woodrow, she pushes him to violent extremes.

The film is shot with Glodell’s homemade camera, and it gives the film a memorably gritty, hazy look that captures the senses. Glodell has a strong sense of place that carries the film in the early-going. The cast, meanwhile, is generally solid (Dawson in particular is reminiscent of a mumblecore Matthew McConaughey), and the film treats the characters as if it knows they’re not particularly likable. The romance is initially enticing, but the film becomes a repetitive, drawn-out naval-gazing story of two people with little to do and less to say.

As Wiseman dumps Glodell, the film hits an ugly funk. Blood and vomit cake the proceedings. Glodell and Dawson’s characters weren’t exactly kind to women in the first half of the film, but the film’s possible self-awareness disappears as the characters’ ugliness and misogyny comes to the forefront. Glodell’s emotional neediness and passive-aggressiveness is portrayed as winning where Wiseman’s irritation is supposed to be ugly. The film finally devolves into a series of repetitive, incoherent ramblings and violent acts towards women in the final thirty minutes. Glodell has an eye for memorable images, and he may have an interesting career ahead of him. “Interesting”, however, isn’t enough to save Bellflower.

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