Max Winkler’s Flower is a dark dramedy about Erica (Zoey Deutch), a teenage girl who embodies the trope of teenage immortality. This means she seems to do whatever she wants, whenever she wants, including performing fellatio on perverts and then blackmailing them for having sex with a minor. The child of a single parent household, her home life changes when her mother’s boyfriend Bob brings his son Luke home from rehab.
If Erica is a wild child with no limits or boundaries, Luke is her opposite, coming off as stoic, anxious, and depressed. Her mother Laurie (the wonderful Kathryn Hahn) begs Erica to be kind to Luke and, eventually, she is, with the two bonding over a mission to deliver some payback to Will Jordan (Adam Scott), Luke’s middle school teacher who molested him.
My biggest issue with Flower is Erica. No teenager acts like this, not even the ones who have lived with immense freedom. Erica is hypersexual, blunt, carefree, and has no regard for her safety to the point of blatant foolishness. The glaring issue throughout the film is this absence of a true woman’s voice in the story, and it’s unsurprising that the only woman with a leadership role in the crew is the DP (Caroline Costa).
And yet, Zoey Deutch does a phenomenal job trying to make Erica relatable. She is charming in her role and does her best to present Erica’s innocence, vulnerability, and good intentions, but it’s clear that director Max Winkler and co-writers Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer haven’t spent much time studying, understanding, or really talking to a teenage girl.
The viewer sees Erica through the male gaze, playing up the trope of the “Good Bad Girl.” She’s innocent but sexy, wild but kind, but her sexuality is never really hers. She uses that sexuality as a tool, which is fine, to an extent, but we also never see her enjoy these moments, except for when [*SPOILER ALERT*] she makes out with Will in his car, or a later scene when she has sex with Luke.
The idea that she doesn’t consider the dangers of her actions is somewhat ludicrous. I understand that one of the central themes of the film is the idea of immortality that comes with youth and the repercussions that align with that attitude but, as a woman, the dangers of the world are something I consider a lot, and have done so for a while. Because Wilder & co. are men, they never weigh the repercussions or potential danger of Erica’s actions, casually marking it off as something a girl with daddy issues would do, which is why it’s important to have women telling women’s’ stories.
Despite all of this, and the weird romance that develops between Luke and Erica that I am choosing not to acknowledge much (similar to Luke’s dad), this was a good movie. Like I stated earlier, Deutch is remarkable in this role, giving Erica depth and portraying her varied emotions with admirable care. Kathryn Hahn is also notable in her role as Erica’s mother. She embodies the role of a single mother expertly, and does a commendable job of expressing the overwhelming emotions tied to motherhood, especially the ones that accompany a potential failure in this respect.
Max Wilder also does a good job of establishing the themes within the film, with the sense of chaos associated with youth well clarified, and I appreciate the tender and innocent moments that are seen between Erica and her mother, Erica and Luke, and as Erica tries to help her absent father.
Fans of Spring Breakers, The Bling Ring and maybe even Dope will probably enjoy this film. As a lover of teenage stories and dark comedies, regardless of its faults, I think this spastic chaotic film works.
Flower had a limited release on March 16th and is in theaters now.
Written by Stephanie Francis