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3 reviews, 1 rating

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by Brett Gallman

"Fear and loathing in the wasteland."
3 stars

Once upon a time, I could relate to the guys in "Bellflower." I, too, once had a deep obsession with "Mad Max" and had an abject fear of girls. The difference is that I was about eight years old and eventually grew up (somewhat), though I admittedly probably never fully understood the other sex. Still, I'd like to think I never carried the unhealthy resentment for them that I see in the characters in "Bellflower," which feels like a juvenile projection of adolescent male anxieties that I find difficult to relate to.

Woodrow (Evan Glodell, who also wrote and directed the film) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are a couple of twentysomething guys who worship at the altar of both Mad Max and his foe, The Lord Humongous. They spend their days fantasizing about the impending apocalypse and building flamethrowers that will presumably enable them to rule the bombed out wasteland when the time comes. A band of two that refers to themselves as "The Medusa Gang," the two are inseparable until Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman), with whom he falls hopelessly in love. Everything eventually goes wrong, however, and we're subjected to a violent, personal apocalypse that destroys the lives of everyone involved.

While "Bellflower"tells the tired "young love gone bad"story with a distinctive visual flair, getting past the awful lead duo is quite hard. I think we're meant to believe that they're the nice guys in a world of testosterone-fuelled frat boys and party animals, but this is a hollow contention when we see that they really aren't much different than that. In fact, the film seems to strictly operate in black and white: all of the guys are violent, self-loathing jerks, while the girls are all conquests that will eventually stab you in the back. I don't level claims of misogyny lightly, but when a girl is portrayed as a callous bitch simply because she doesn't enjoy unwanted advances of some oaf, then your worldview may have some issues.

And the worst part is that we're asked to empathize with the former. When Woodrow and Milly's relationship sours, it seemingly only does so because it's inevitable. Girls in this world are whores and heartbreakers by default, and Milly herself tells Woodrow that she'll eventually hurt him. Even one of the film's chapter titles ominously informs us that "all things end." "Bellflower" expects us to see Woodrow as a preordained victim of the opposite sex, which is a hollow conceit that merely earns my indifference towards his fate.

The fallout is very much nuclear but equally perplexing in its insistence that Woodrow and Aiden transform into pugnacious gear heads who take comfort in octane fumes and fire simply because some girl broke the former's heart. Obviously, these two have a few loose screws and were already a couple of insulting meatheads who treated girls as sexual objects to be used only to fill up their vapid conversations that would otherwise just be filled with the word "dude."Woodrow and Aiden remind me of those type of guys who masquerade as sweet, sensitive types but are the first to laugh at their own jokes (especially if Woodrow's persistent annoying giggling is any indication) and point out how "nice" every tender moment is. "Bellflower" itself is representative of that, as it seems to be constantly posturing and trying a little bit too hard to impress us--and one gathers that it'd hit us over the head over a bottle if we refused to be charmed.

Glodell attempts to mask all of this with a slick style that comes complete with the expected indie-alt rock soundtrack that attempts to signify some sort of introspection. Admittedly, its aesthetic is a boon, and some of the stylistic choices (such as dirt on the lens) takes "gritty" to a new level, and the final act contains some powerfully directed scenes that culminate in a hypnotic denouement. If only I could enjoy fully enjoy it--instead, "Bellflower"chokes on its own reverence for the film that obviously inspired it. Eventually, it degenerates into gratuitous violence and a staggering rape scene that razes any sympathy to the ground.

Remarkably, the film doesn't seem to make that case; instead, we end in a wistful place that sees that Woodrow is regretful--not for all of the death and destruction, but, rather, of the fact that he and his buddy can no longer hang out and be cool guys smoking cigarettes. A climactic monologue sequence would probably be quite brilliant if it subverted the embracement of the typical male-dominant ideology. Even if it is, drumming up any sort of sympathy for these guys is a chore, primarily because I don't share the bleak, angry, and fiery perception of male confusion put forth by the film.

Instead, though, I mostly just felt sorry for poor Jessie Wiseman and the other women, who we're expected to dislike for no other reason than they're girls--and girls are very bad, and only exist to make bad guys even worse.

Its low budget scrappiness is to be commended, but "Bellflower"is delivered with the petulant whine of a 14-year-old boy who constantly asks, "why don't girls like me?" Well, maybe it's because you spend your time building flamethrowers with your psychopathic buddy, dude.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=21830&reviewer=429
originally posted: 11/11/11 01:38:18
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2011 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Actionfest 2011 For more in the Actionfest 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 For more in the Independent Film Festival Boston 2011 series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2011 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the Fantasia International Film Festival 2011 series, click here.

User Comments

12/27/12 Langano Cool little flick 4 stars
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  DVD: 15-Nov-2011


  DVD: 15-Nov-2011

Directed by
  Evan Glodell

Written by
  Evan Glodell

  Evan Glodell
  Jessie Wiseman
  Tyler Dawson
  Rebekah Brandes

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