Max Winkler’s Flower is an indie-coming of age that begs the question: What if the manic pixie dream girl had a raunchy side to her and repeatedly drew penises in her notebook? The result is Zoey Deutch’s Erica, a feisty 17-year-old who is more trouble than quirky. She scares her mom’s boyfriends away with her less than shining personality and is aggressive towards anyone who criticizes her. To bail her father out of prison, she gives blow-jobs to older men and then threatens to blackmail them in exchange for cash. It’s not as luxurious as other day jobs, but it has earned her almost 15,000 dollars.
When her mom’s (Kathryn Hahn) new squeeze Bob (Tim Heidecker) moves in, he brings his troubled son Luke (Joey Morgan) home from rehab. Erica hates that she is forced to hang out with this lonely young man but eventually grows to be fond of them. When she finds out about Luke’s troubled past with a teacher (Adam Scott)—who also happens the older man that Erica has been crushing on— she vows to use her sexual vigilante talents to make him pay for his crimes.
Whether it be her unusual choice of hobbies or her determination to getting her criminal father out of prison, there’s a lot to unravel in Erica’s persona. Deutch gives the performance of her career with such a nuanced portrayal of this troubled teen. And there’s so much left unsaid about her, that it’s a miracle that Deutch was able to create such a compelling character with almost nothing to go on. She’s the driving factor of Flower and carries this film on her back. The only actor able to rival her is Morgan, whose distressed soul could be felt through the screen.
However, an actor can only work with what he/she are given, and sadly, Deutch wasn’t given very much. It’s very apparent that Flower was written by men, and thus not fully understanding the topic at hand. Flower felt like a revenge flick against predatory men—a idea that seems relevant in our #metoo climate. But it turns out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as Spicer and McAulay barely scratch the surface and focus more on shock value than substance. This makes the theme about sexual assault disappear under tasteless jokes.
To make matters worse, the third act goes completely off the rails.The tone shifts from a dark comedy to a Bonnie and Clyde car chase, with the lonely man finding love with the quirky girl who manages to change his life. Sound familiar?
While Deutch’s performance is one for the books, Flower will be forgotten two hours after the credits roll. Winkler, Spicer, and McAulay may all want to be the next Harmony Korine, but Flower shows how far they have to go.