Mark Reviews Movies



1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Evan Glodell

Cast: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes, Vincent Grashaw

MPAA Rating: R (for disturbing violence, some strong sexuality, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use)

Running Time: 1:45

Release Date: 8/5/11 (limited); 9/16/11 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 15, 2011

The lesson of Bellflower is that when someone at a bar with whom you are conversing drops the fact that he's preparing for the apocalypse by planning a souped-up muscle car, forming a gang, and building a flamethrower from scratch, it's best to just say, "Well, it was nice meeting you," quickly walk back to your group, leave the bar without looking in the guy's direction again, and find a new place to drink. That would be the sane thing to do, but, as the movie is about how messed-up people love messed-up company, sanity doesn't figure in to it.

The story, divided into chapters with trite titles like "Memories," "All Things End," and "In the Darkest Hour..." (complete with ellipsis), concerns Woodrow (Evan Glodell, who also wrote and directed—the strength definitely being in the last department), the reality-challenged man people should avoid at the bar. When he was younger, Woodrow and his best friend and roommate Aiden (Tyler Dawson) watched Mad Max obsessively to the point that now, as grown men, they apparently spend all their time sketching out imaginary possibilities of a post-apocalyptic world where they are part of a gang called "Mother Medusa" fighting the power-hungry Lord Humongous, who "cannot be defied," according to the movie's opening quote.

Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) at a bar, where the two go head-to-head in a cricket-eating contest. The week prior, Milly informs Aiden, she let the people at the bar set her on fire for a similar dare-based competition. In other words, she's not the sensible type either, so when Woodrow lets her in on his plan to build a flamethrower, she thinks it's neat.

From there, we get the development of their relationship on a whim of a road trip to a lousy dive of an eatery in Texas. He confronts a louse who slaps Milly's butt as she passes, only to be punched in the face. They drink whiskey out of a dispenser he installed in his car (This is surely a warning sign of a person with problems, right?), and in a scene of painfully blunt foreshadowing, she suggests she isn't exactly girlfriend material—no matter how much he may want her to be. "Things will go bad," she tells him; "They always do."  He'll be different, he insists; she won't hurt him in the way she says she's hurt everyone else.

The dialogue in these scenes is awkward, particularly with Glodell's whiny delivery, and the story's structure, which mostly comprises such hollow scenes of roving relationship establishment, starts to become repetitive. Also introduced are Mike (Vincent Grashaw), Milly's roommate who clearly has a crush on her, and Courtney (Rebekah Brandes), Milly's friend with whom Aiden is smitten. They eventually become somewhat important in the most melodramatically obvious ways imaginable.

What Glodell lacks in dramatic prowess and an ear for dialogue he makes up for in visual acuity. As the movie progresses, the lines between fantasy and reality start to blur, and cinematographer Joel Hodge helps to make the distinction with subtle filters and shot compositions (The occasional flecks and smudges of dirt on the lens are an amusing touch).

That transition into the fantastic, though, is also the movie's most unfortunate step. Once things sour between Woodrow and Milly—just as she and we predicted it would—the underlying motif of the workings of his imagination come together as the movie itself falls apart. What follows is the convenient plot device of unspecified brain damage, allowing Woodrow to occupy the role of the romantic hero in his deranged revenge fantasy. If he comes across as gratingly milquetoast during the introductory acts (and pretty much everything until the accident that leads to his injuries is exposition), then he's downright sadistic in this sequence, which includes him scorching Millly's backyard and culminates in rape.

As discomforting as the dream sequences might be, the resolution, with its on-the-nose dialogue and a cathartic burning, is equally insulting. For all the flair of the narrative's later back-and-forth, Bellflower is hollow in its metaphorical take on a romantic breakup.

Copyright © 2011 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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