Since its debut at Tribeca Film Festival last spring, Flower has not garnered much praise. After watching this film I see why that is. As I chomped my smuggled tater tots, Flower’s tone set in quickly. The movie cuts in without warning. Male moans introduce us to this memorable heroine. Right from the start, an air of unruly behavior blooms. Despite her glowing smile, Erica Vandross (played by Zoey Deutch) expresses her pain via oral fixation. Her father Raymond is her idol. She brags about his incarceration for robbing a casino as if more parents should be like him. Saying Erica has “daddy issues” would be a drastic understatement. While her father sits in prison, she and her two best friends concoct a deviant side hustle. Erica performs oral sex on strangers for money. Frowned upon as it is, it’s not the craziest idea.
However, at 17 years of age, she is a minor. And her friends pull up on Erica’s middle-aged victims, blackmailing them for cash. This chick has balls, and oodles of personality. Think of Juno mixed with Violet Beauregarde with a bit more charm. Erica does what she wants when she wants. Though Deutch shines bright, her supporting cast becomes heavily overshadowed. None of the people in her life keep her in check. This includes her ignorance-is-bliss style mother. Played by Kathryn Hahn, Laurie has been looking for a new man since Erica’s father bailed. Nevertheless, her daughter scared almost all of them away. Insert Bob, Erica’s new stepdad. Of course, she hates his guts. Any man not named Dad simply will not suffice. She’s your typical teenage brat. Yet she exudes endearing charisma that masks her impish nature. There is a slight disconnect between the dialogue and Erica’s on-screen persona.
She has a somewhat good heart. Erica stashes her fellatio savings to serve as her father’s indemnity. With fifteen grand saved up, things are looking up for the sexually curious teen. That is, until her stepbrother Luke (played by Joey Morgan) comes to live with her, Laurie, and Bob. Luke is a recovering pill addict who eats his way out of depression. Following an expected array of weight-related insults, Erica discovers Luke’s source of anxiety. She treats him to his first real meal since his release from rehab. While there, a man dubbed “Hot Old Guy” by Erica and her friends walks by at her favorite bowling alley. When Luke sees him in public, he panics. Will Jordan (played by Adam Scott) is an avid bowler and former teacher accused of molesting Luke. Luke’s story never added up so the judge dropped the case, but his pain remained prevalent.
Deutch and Morgan’s chemistry leaves much to be desired. Their quirky kinship keeps the story afloat nonetheless. This plot is nothing out of the ordinary. It reminded of me of the love story from Baby Driver. Erica and Luke end up pulling a fast one on Will. She lured him into liking her, drugged his beer, and planned yet another blackmail. None of that happened in Baby Driver. However, they did flee the scene when everything went to shit. Reality finally catches up with Erica, and she and Luke steal Will’s car and head to Mexico. During their time on the lam, Luke confesses his love for Erica. The step siblings lose their virginity together with police sirens wailing in the background. It’s a tad corny. Looking back, this film is a critic’s nightmare. Flower has a masculine aura surrounding its dialogue. Perhaps this is one of the writers’ fantasies.
Personally, I wish Flower was a little more poetic. There is no message here other than sucking dick pays the bills. I understand how that leaves a bad taste in critics’ mouths. Despite its crude approach, this film never crosses the line of absurdity. There is genuine humor here however childish it may be. Tim Heidecker‘s Bob is a convincing lame stepdad. Most of these actors perform well, and their costume designers arranged apparel effectively. Although no greater purpose presents itself, I found strength in other aspects here. At 93 minutes, Flower stays for dinner but skips dessert. Performed and perfected by a rising star, Erica Vandross is a signature character. Even though the technical side of this film lacks taste, it is not here to appease critics. This is a fan film through and through. The replay value living within Flower is apparent in my eyes.
In today’s passable film world, own-worthy films are hard to come by. This is not a film I’d recommend to everyone. However, if you’re into indie comedies and immature humor, give this one a try. Flower is not much of a theater experience. Yet I appreciated the commitment to sound cohesion here. There are no drink-spitting moments but rather consistent chuckle inducers throughout. This film packs gusto in spite of its business-as-usual storyline. These characters hit home and drive the narrative forward within a digestible runtime. If dick jokes aren’t your thing, I get it. They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Many renowned critics appear to be 35 and over. For this critic, Flower’s charm supersedes its misguided message.