Thursday, August 4, 2011

Evan Glodell's BELLFLOWER opens -- with a bang and a whimper -- in New York & L.A.

The kind of movie that, from its slam-bang beginning, has you asking the questions -- Who are these people and what is going on here? -- BELLFLOWER is also the kind of movie that will have you asking the same questions at the finale. Yes, you know more about the people and place (maybe even the time period) by then, but not nearly enough to answer those questions at all thoroughly. What is clear, however, is that writer/director Evan Glodell (shown below) has talent to spare, even if he is at this point lacking some focus. Or maybe missing the forest for the trees.

Mr. Glodell's visual sense is in your face and stunning, filmed it often seems with a yellow tinge to almost everything. If you remember those movie trailers from the 50s, in which one of the tag lines was inevitably, "Passion explodes off the screen!", well, that certainly is the case here. Bellflower is, in fact, a sterling example of what happens when passion comes crashin'. In it, boy (who makes flame throwers) meets girl (who eats live crickets). And while there is more to these characters than those short descriptions might suggest, there is not, finally, enough.

Mr. Glodell has not only written and directed Bellflower, he co-produced it, did some of the editing, and -- oh, yes -- stars in it, too. If this sounds a bit like a vanity production, well, at least the guy has something to be vain about. He's good-looking, exhibits screen charisma, and knows his way around directing, if not quite so well around screenwriting. Yet.

This is a love story, of sorts. Woodrow (Glodell) meets Millie (a very good Jessie Wiseman, above left) and falls hard. How hard, we don't realize. Nor, it seems, does he, until it's too late. His best friend Aidan (Tyler Dawson, below) helps him with various "projects" (that flame thrower, target practice, etc.), while getting involved with Courtney (Rebekah Brandes, two photos down). Millie's roomie, Mike (Vincent Grashaw), doubles as on-and-off fuck-buddy, who gets "on" at precisely the wrong moment.

That's pretty much it, except that what's most disastrously missing here is context. Which is why the Who are these people? question never really gets answered. Not only are there no parents, relatives or other friends around, there's no work/employment shown either. Do these kids have jobs? How do they live? At one point along the way, $3 is mentioned as something vitally important. "Do you know what I could buy with that?!" one of them asks another. Well, actually, no: What could you buy? Are these kids some sort of American version of stunted Eurotrash? Are they perhaps trust-fund babies?  Or maybe living in an alternate universe where $3 has real purchasing power?

Instead, they inhabit some highly emotional vacuum, in which nothing but their finally too-enormous needs are important. Even Romeo and Juliet had context. So, maybe consider this movie a tragedy for the upcoming apocalyptic set. Or a semi-bromance gone wrong. Or Zabriskie Point for twats (although that original was pretty much made with twats in mind, too, though they were courting peace and love while these are more interested in death and destruction). Whatever. Glodell, for all that's missing here, has a lot going for him and will certainly be heard from again. And I hope I'll be there to see what comes next.

Bellflower, 105 minutes, from Oscilloscope Laboratoriesopens tomorrow, Friday, August 5, in Los Angeles (Landmark's Nuart) and New York (Angelika Film Center) and elsewhere in the weeks to come.  Click here to see all currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters.

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