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Bellflower - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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cinema_holic
Bellflower
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Directing: B-
Acting: B-
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-



Woodrow and Aiden are in a sort of post-modern straight-guy friendship in Bellflower, the kind with pervasively juvenile behavior that belies a genuine emotional intimacy. It's not "bromance" exactly, given that the two have been best friends since their childhood in Wisconsin. But now they've moved to Los Angeles, apparently for no other reason that it’s an "awesome" thing to do -- and they spend all their time building a flamethrower and tricking out a used car to look like something out of their longtime favorite movie, Mad Max.

This is the backdrop to what turns out to be, essentially, an almost self-consciously stylized soap opera. It all comes down to sex and relationships and how they fit into loyalty and betrayal. Indeed, it's almost as if writer-director-star Evan Glodell simply took some of the themes from movies like The Godfather, Taxi Driver and Mean Streets and then crammed them into the violent postpubescent fantasies of his characters.

The thing is, these characters are not nearly as young as they behave. They're clearly in their twenties at least, but act like they're 14. Really, who does these things? These guys are serious about both their flame thrower -- which actually works (they switch to diesel and declare, "Propane is for pussies!") -- and their car, which they paint black and stencil the word MEDUSA in large white letters on the side. They have a years-old fantasy of being part of a post-apocalyptic gang, driving the singed countryside in their tricked out car and wowing all their nemeses with their flame thrower.

Do these guys have jobs? They don't seem to. How the hell do they pay for all this stuff? Are their parents back in Wisconsin funding this ridiculous lifestyle? Do their parents even have any idea where they are? When Woodrow and Aiden are not blowing shit up or drooling over their own vehicular creation, they're getting wasted. In nearly every scene, they have a beer. At one point they get up and have eggs and toast for breakfast -- with beer.

Before they even get the new car, Woodrow's previous car is already tricked out a bit: he's got a tank under the hood for whiskey, which comes out a spigot sticking through the dashboard. He and his new girlfriend Milly both drink from it extensively while taking a spontaneous trip to Texas -- which lasts several days. Where the money comes from for all of this is never addressed.

Woodrow meets Milly at a local bar, where Aiden tricks him into competing in a cricket eating contest. I kept wondering what Los Angeles neighborhood this was. Hmm, according to Google Maps, the Bellflower of the title -- made clear in the movie that it's the name of the street they live on -- is near Long Beach. Their neighborhood seems innocuous enough. One still has to wonder what kind of bar has cricket eating contests. This is the setting and context of Glodell's version of a "meet cute": Milly pointedly chowing down on crickets.

Milly lives with Mike, a guy whose relationship to her is unclear. She's best friends with Courtney. All you really need to know is that, eventually, pretty much everyone is fucking everyone behind everyone's back. Not all at once, but by turns, heightening the tension between them all, pushing Woodrow and Aiden's apocalyptic fantasies dangerously into reality. Cars and fire and guns, oh my.

Glodell actually takes a while to get to the point. He takes his time, and a little too much of it. Bellflower is all of 106 minutes and it feels too long. It would have been much improved at 90 minutes. It's shot in an almost exclusively over-exposed manner, making it look like the Los Angeles they live in is indeed on the cusp of something -- if not apocalyptic, then at least unusual. Not good.

Glodell himself impressively plays the part of Woodrow in addition to writing and directing. He conveys an unusually convincing sweetness as Woodrow, a guy ultimately corrupted by the stresses of betrayal. Well, and the injuries of a motorcycle accident. He's not quite as good at the writing. Most of the lines come across as just barely falling short of sounding the way real people actually talk to each other. It's subtle, but forced. It's especially evident in Woodrow's delivery, as well as that of Tyler Dawson as Aiden. They're clearly trying to sound natural but not quite making it.

I found myself sort of losing interest and then coming back, several times, while watching this. It'll grab you, then lose you, then grab you again. After a while it proves to be surprisingly provocative. And then it veers into hyper-stylized editing that seems to suggest that perhaps what you just saw wasn't actually supposed to have happened. The end confused me.

Ultimately, most of the apocalyptic visions exist only in Woodrow and Aiden's heads. The real story exists only in the tiny bubble in which these five characters exist. Their universe is the universe. It's an intriguing if not particularly solid one. Bellflower is Glodell's writing and directorial debut, and it shows, but if nothing else it indicates potential.

Evan Glodell and Rebekah Brandes get themselves into a bit of trouble in 'Bellflower'.


Overall: B-
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