This movie, Bellflower, has gotten a lot of Sundance buzz. I can tell you it won’t appeal to just anyone. But it will appeal to the 20-something disenchanted arthouse slackers obsessed with pop-culture violence. Ok, maybe not JUST them. But psychopaths might like it, too. At first glance it may seem like one of those pretentious indies shot all weird with camera effects just for the sake of doing it. But when you learn more about the film maker and how it was shot, you gain more appreciation for it. And it’s kind of a weird coming of age/apocalyptic vision film. Yeah, that’s not a combination we see much of these days. Or ever.
Best long time friends Woodrow and Aiden moved to Southern California for the dream of it all. They’re really into building cars and flame-throwers and other various dangerous things so that they will be ready for when the Apocalypse comes – Mad Max style. But when Woodrow falls in love – hard – with a cool, independent blonde woman, things get very complicated. Enter betrayal, love, hate, infidelity, and violence in ways they hadn’t imagined.
Woodrow, played by writer/director, Evan Glodell, and Aiden spend pretty much all their time building mechanical things of violence from their mental Road Warrior wish list. That, and drinking lots of beer and booze. These guys have lots of time on their hands. Until Woodrow meets Millie at a bar where she beats him at a cricket eating contest. She’s classy. He digs her and on their first date they drive to Texas where we get hints of where things are going. There’s sudden, ill-considered violence, the obseesion with mechanical tinkering, and yet some surprisingly realistic moments of affection punctuated by a hint of “this ain’t gonna end well”.
Supposedly, Evan Glodell actually built home-made gear for the digital cameras used, which give the film it’s distinctive look. Bellflower seems to have been made with the same reckless energy possesed by the two hero characters in it. I find that interesting in light of how the film looks. It’s as if they didn’t care if a smudge or something got on the lens – they just left it in. Most of these results are actually pretty interesting, including some great tilt-shift shots of Woodrows car driving down a desert road. They create some really dream-like, altered reality sequences in a style that you haven’t seen much in film, even if you might have on your instagram or Hipstamatic iPhone apps. Yeah, see how this could be perceived as cool OR totally annoying? Your call, people. Me, I dug it.
In the third act, things get dicey. With a combination of jump cuts and tinkering with chronology, we’re given what may be different possible outcomes, which can leave you either a bit confused with the climax or musing intellectually about how a pop-culture world can produce gentle boys that dream of all sorts of movie and comic book violence. It’s not a neat and tidy resolution but Bellflower has a weird, ugly, but sort of sweet, likeablility to it. I was pretty fascinated by the whole thing and liked the natural acting, the palpability of the menace in some of the scenes, and really, who doesn’t love a home-made flamethrower? Oh, and one of the cars had this awesome whiskey dispenser on the dashboard. That says a lot about this film: booze dispenser in the car. It’s so wrong, it’s right.
Whatever you feel when you come out of this film, I think Evan Glodell will make some interesting films in the future. If anything, keep an eye out for him. Definitely three and a half kittenhands for Bellflower.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, wants a ride in the Medusa. That car shoots fire, man.