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Dustin Putman

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Bellflower  (2011)
2 Stars
Directed by Evan Glodell.
Cast: Evan Glodell, Jessie Wiseman, Tyler Dawson, Rebekah Brandes, Vincent Grashaw, Zack Kraus, Keghan Hurst, Alexandra Boylan.
2011 – 106 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for strong violence and sexuality, nudity, pervasive language and some drug use).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 22, 2011.
As a writer-director-actor-producer-editor making his feature debut on all of the above, Evan Glodell has an undeniable filmmaker's eye. With a budget of just $17,000, "Bellflower" is an impressive technical feat. Sure, it was shot with what appears to have been a camera found buried in the desert, dirt and debris speckling the lens to varying degrees throughout, but there is a real professionalism behind the barebones aesthetics. The performances he gets from his unknown cast are at a legitimate studio level, too, which makes one wish the film as a whole were better. It's well-made, yes, but also annoyingly arch, self-absorbed, and contrived.

Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) meander through their days in Los Angeles putting together the spare parts that will eventually make up Mother Medusa, a black, flame-throwing muscle car. Once the apocalypse arrives, they figure, they'll be ready. When Woodrow competes against Milly (Jessie Wiseman) in a cricket-eating contest, the two of them hit it off and are soon on a days-long road trip to Texas to eat at the "cheapest, nastiest, scariest" place they can find. By the time they return home, Woodrow is convinced he's fallen in love. Expecting to stay in the self-contained fantasyland they made for themselves on the road proves unrealistic, however, when an unthinkable betrayal sets off a potentially violent chain of events that will forever affect both their lives.

"Bellflower" is a motion picture most viewers will probably find themselves admiring more than actually liking. When you know the scrappy details of how the film came together with so few resources, it's impressive. From a screenplay level, though, it's nearly as amateurish as one might fear, and at least one editing faux pas—characters are seen driving in a car they've just sold in the previous scene—is just plain careless. The ensemble of characters, all twenty-somethings, are unemployed and aimless to a fault, each of them living in run-down apartments and houses but not one of them with any future prospects or dreams. Even Woodrow, our hero of sorts, has but one aspiration: to construct a car that's "really badass." They all smoke a lot and drink even more, and are generally proud of their anti-establishment ways. What they aren't are worth our cares, and as the story grows increasingly solemn and bleak, the onslaught of violence isn't necessary so much as shoehorned in just to give a rather pedestrian doomed romancer a tinge more interest.

Evan Glodell has a bright future ahead of him as a writer-director, and Elisha Cuthbert-lookalike Jessie Wiseman is effortlessly charismatic as Milly, but "Bellflower" is more a means to getting their foot in the door rather than their likely breakthroughs. Plucky yet grimy, at once laggish and intriguing, it's the kind of movie that a person must scrub off after watching, the scuzzy problems of the directionless low-lives on screen coming to a head and signaling the end credits. Funny, how most of their problems would flutter away if only they had something to do in their spare time other than party, screw, and squabble. When it comes to love amidst the ruins, 1986's visionary gem "Dead End Drive-In," 1988's intense paranoid thriller "Miracle Mile," and 1999's tragically beautiful "Last Night" all previously covered much of the same apocalyptic ground, and did it better.
© 2011 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman