“Flower,” Max Winkler’s follow up to the 2010 film “Ceremony,” looks and feels like any other coming-of-age teen dramedy to come out in recent memory. And yet, looking at how great the films in this new wave of teen films have been, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Zoey Deutch stars as Erica, a girl who gets joy in life from hanging out with friends and blackmailing unsuspecting men with the power of oral pleasure. All is fine in Erica’s life, but things begin to take a different turn when Luke, the son of her mom’s boyfriend, is let out of rehab. Joey Morgan plays Luke, a mentally unstable and overweight young man with a lot of demons resting under his skin. And with a plot involving a potential sexual predator from Luke’s past coming into the mix, things get more complicated than anyone could have imagined.
From the opening scene, it’s clear that Erica is a nasty woman, and not the kind that people would vote in as our next president. She’s a bitch, long story short, and the film acknowledges this despite us having to like her in the end. With any other actress, it might have been hard to do that, but Deutch is having so much fun being such a crazy and awful teenager that her charisma draws the audience into liking her. Her chemistry with all the cast members, particularly with Kathryn Hahn, who plays her mom, is great, too. Hahn’s performance on its own is yet another example of how strong of an actress she can be. It’s easy to compare her work here to her character from last year’s summer breakout smash “Bad Moms,” but there’s a lot more pain and struggle here, all of which comes out at the beginning of the third act.
Deutch’s is easily the standout performance, but the real surprise comes from Joey Morgan, known for “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” which, for lack of a better term, isn’t the most intelligent and profound of teen-centric films. Luke is heart and center in “Flower,” as the catalyst for all of the forthcoming events. His growth as a character feels very satisfying, especially with Erica by her side. And though the outcome of their bonding together feels odd and strange, it makes sense how they got there, and so, “Flower” earned that moment. I will guarantee you, though, that it will turn people off and possibly even question what they thought of the entire movie as a whole.
I haven’t even begun to scratch some of the other active elements of the film, including the hilarious supporting performances from Dylan Gelula, Adam Scott, and Tim Heidecker. I also won’t mention how effectively funny and moving the script, co-written by Winkler, Alex McAulay, and Matt Spicer is. The “third act” takes an unexpectedly dark turn, however, ending in a way that, may very well make or break the film.
The movie drops in quality for me once that act kicks in, but because of how strong the rest of the film is, with primo performances and screenplay, “Flower” is still a winner. Zoey Deutch’s fiery, hilarious and sophisticated performance alone makes the price of admission worth it.
Zachary Marsh is Screen Comment’s special reporter at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.