Movie Review: Bellflower (2011, dir. Evan Glodell)

When I saw The Exploding Girl, I had my fingers crossed that she would explode. She didn’t, and I sat through an hour and a half of clumsy mumbling where nothing happened. While Bellflower does contain quite a bit of clumsiness and young people mumbling, it offers up exactly what The Exploding Girl lacked: bombs, pyros, and a weapon car
from hell.

After some encouragement from his charmingly psychotic best friend Aiden, Wavery voiced Woodrow from Wisconsin (played by Evan Glodell) picks up full-figured, thrill-seeking, bleach-blonde pigtailed Milly at a cricket eating contest. The two immediately embark for Texas on a dare with one another, and quickly enter into a relationship without much direction or reason, but with far too much drinking. In fact, drinking and talking seems to be the bulk of what Woodrow, Aiden, Milly, and Milly’s best friend Courtney (played by the super cute Rebekah Brandes of Midnight Movie) spend their time doing.

The movie was shot north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, and the desert setting is well fitted to the bleak, undefined lives of the four leads. Obsessed with The Road Warrior and the end of the world, Woodrow and Aiden don’t appear to have jobs, any obligations, or a lack of funds, and spend all their time partying with the girls, building weapons, and preparing for their fantasy apocalypse. They just don’t seem to have any place in the real world.

The film has a very organic cinematography, which gives way to a very intimate look at the lives of its characters. It’s over-stylized and grungy. The lens is smudged, speckled with dirt fromshooting guerilla style on the road. At times, it’s pretty self indulgent. But then again, as the writer, director, producer, editor, and star of the film, Evan Glodell is establishing his voice as an artist. His voice may be a bit misogynistic and confused about the way the world works, but it is strong.

I will warn the genre fans that are reading this, this isn’t a genre film and if that’s all you want to see, it will bore you. There’s a lot of talking and long uncomfortable moments between Woodrow and his friends. Although Bellflower is a genre film in many aspects, it also has a place as another low budget mumblecore-esque indie drama. It’s not a love story, although it does deal with human relationships. At times the hip soundtrack can be a little distracting. The talkiness and hipster tunes are balanced out by the homemade bombs and flame-throwing weapons featured in the movie, which were actually built by the filmmaker and his crew.

Bellflower sucks you in at the end, everything goes to hell and soon the film is exploring the depths of what horrible things people can do to each other. The third act is populated by the screams of a group of hopeless young people who are powerless and aimless to change anything except by destroying their immediate surroundings. Even the narrative begins to fall apart as a reflection of this. The film ends with a necessary explosion, albeit not really a literal one, and when the dust settles, there are some questions. What is the right thing to do when your world is ending? Whether or not the film answers that is up to you.

Yet, despite not being the boring mumblecore movie it could have been, I personally am right in the middle on Bellflower.There are a lot of things that are wonderful about it and even more that is extremely upsetting, but there is just as much that is simply infuriating about the film’s attitude. If you like talky indie dramas, but wish they had more sex, guns, and Lord Humongous, this one is for you.

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