Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bellflower (November 4th and 6th at the Cleveland Cinematheque)

[BELLFLOWER screens Friday November 4th at 9:45 pm and Sunday November 6th at 8:30 pm at the Cleveland Cinematheque.]

Review by Bob Ignizio

In BELLFLOWER, Woodrow (the film's writer/director Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are a couple of twenty-something indie rock types obsessed with the movie THE ROAD WARRIOR. They idolize Lord Humongous, the villain of that film, and seem genuinely hopeful that some sort of apocalypse will take place so that they too can become warriors of the wasteland. The two have actually taken the first steps towards their goal, building a pretty cool flame thrower. Next on the agenda is combining the flame thrower with a bad-ass muscle car they plan to call Medusa. So yeah, not exactly future leaders of the world here.

Even if his hoped-for doomsday scenario did take place, Woodrow wouldn't be much good in a fight. We learn this shortly after he has one of the most unusual “meet cutes” I've ever seen: Woodrow's path intersects with Milly (Jesse Wiseman) when the two compete in a cricket eating contest. Milly warns Woodrow that she'll probably hurt him, but he takes her on a romantic road trip to the scariest restaurant he knows, anyway. That's where we see him display his fighting prowess (or lack thereof) defending Milly's honor when a patron grabs her butt.

At first the couple seem meant for each other. Woodrow even invites Milly to join the imaginary gang he and Aiden envision leading. But true to her word, Milly does hurt Woodrow, and his heart embarks upon a scorched earth policy resulting in an emotional wasteland that's nowhere near as much fun as Woodrow's apocalyptic fantasies. Even Milly's friend Courtney (Rebekah Brandes, who Aiden has a crush on) seems unable to soothe the wounded warrior. Sadness, depression, and rage continue to build in Woodrow, and we begin to wonder if he will get thorough his pain, or if he'll self destruct, bringing others down with him.

BELLFLOWER does have its issues, chief among them a cast (including Glodell himself) of talented amateurs who do a pretty good job but still fall short of being wholly convincing. Sometimes the awkwardness of the performances kind of works for the movie, but other times not so much. Regardless, the script and Glodell's direction (not to mention Joel Hodge's beautifully grungy and burned out cinematography) are more than enough to make up for any lack of polish in the acting department. The middle does drag a bit, and I think a few minutes trimmed here and there would have made for a tighter, more satisfying film. But originality is a scarce resource in American film these days, so when I run across a movie like BELLFLOWER that has it, I'm inclined to cut that film a little slack. Especially when the flaws ultimately seem as minor as they do here. 3 out of 4 stars.

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