FLOWER (93 R)
A sexually curious teen forms an unorthodox kinship with her mentally unstable stepbrother.
Director: Max Winkler
Writers: Alex McAulay, Matt Spicer
Stars: Zoey Deutch, Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott
Sure, flowers are beautiful, but they’re also often toxic and occasionally lethal.
Perhaps that’s the analogy to be drawn from the title of the film because, while Erica (Zoey Deutch) is surely in the full bloom of youth, her outer beauty and vivacity hide a very dark soul indeed.
Erica has been determinedly raising funds to get her casino-robbing dad out of jail in a rather unconventional way: performing sex acts on more than willing older men and then, with the help of two high school friends and some candid camerawork, extorting cash out of them, with a law enforcement officer the latest to bumble into her sticky web.
On the home front, Mom Laurie (Kathryn Hahn) has invited her latest flame, Bob a.k.a. the Sherm (Tim Heidecker), to cohabit along with his son, Luke (Joey Morgan), who’s fresh out of rehab.
Erica sets her sights on a new target, Will (Adam Scott), a handsome geek who likes to bowl. It turns out he’s a high school teacher and the same guy her new stepbrother has previously accused of molesting him. It’s a plot point that strains credulity.
The film is being billed as a dark comedy and there’s certainly some nicely arch dialogue, including Erica’s dismissive put-down of the heavy-set Luke — “junkies are supposed to be skinny” — as well as some ribald material, including her penchant for sketching for posterity the members of her male victims.
It also seeks to delve into Erica’s complex psyche, and explores the unexpected relationship that evolves between Erica and Luke.
Then there’s the question of Will. Did he actually molest Luke or is the truth a bit more complicated?
The film also works as a character study of Erica — who’s really quite unforgettable as a character — as well as a social commentary of sorts about general dissoluteness and amorality among the younger generation.
Deutch’s portrayal of Erica is truly impressive, giving us a fully fleshed character who’s both vulnerable and remorseless. Morgan is quite affecting as Luke and Scott does a fine job portraying Will as a quirky enigma. One isn’t quite sure whether to pity or despise him.
Flower may be too dark for some tastes and its budding femme fatale protagonist is anything but a role model. But Deutch is compelling to watch and the film has a twisted charm that succeeds in making it an enjoyable romp.
– BRUCE DEMARA, Toronto Star