The teen-centric “Flower” is neither particularly insightful nor shocking to anyone well versed in indie movies. Directed by Max Winkler and co-written with Matt Spicer (“Ingrid Goes West”), the film mixes teenage angst with bouts of (supposed) dark comedy that takes inherently risky material and nearly destroys it with utter implausibility.
The rebellious and sexually confident 17 year old Erica (the always fantastic Zoey Deutch) lives with her single mom Laurie (Kathryn Hahn, in a knockout dramatic performance). In order to raise bail money for her incarcerated dad, Erica performs sex acts on older men while her best friends (Maya Eshet, Dylan Gelula) film the encounters so that they can blackmail the victims for cash. She does so under the guise that she’s teaching these men a lesson because they shouldn’t be seeking out and messing around with underage girls.
Soon mom’s new boyfriend Bob (Tim Heidecker) moves in, and he springs his mentally disturbed, drug addict son Luke (Joey Morgan) out of rehab to officially join the family. When Luke exposes his dark secret about an accused pedophile teacher (Adam Scott) who once supposedly physically abused him, the two soon-to-be step siblings set out to even the score. As you’d expect, things don’t quite go as planned and the teens find themselves in a tangled web of trouble.
The script is engaging enough but at times succumbs to its own lazy writing as increasingly absurd things happen in rapid succession. While it may fizzle when things go a little too far, it excels as a fully realized character study of Erica, herself the symbol of the muddled morality and remorselessness of a younger generation. This social commentary is continual yet never feels forced, and at the heart of the story is a legitimately unlikable protagonist that somehow won me over.
This is an arresting movie that certainly won’t be for everyone. It has a low budget look and feel, it doesn’t even come close to resembling a traditional comedy, and while the run time is a relatively short 90 minutes, it feels as if it rambles aimlessly on for much longer. Some of Winkler’s directorial choices are annoying (like his overuse of handheld cameras and other clichéd gimmicks), but overall it’s a well crafted film and is worth watching for Deutch and Hahn’s performances alone.