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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 35
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Invigorating Bellflower a surreal ride
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Bellflower
September 2


Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and his best friend Aidan (Tyler Dawson) haven't exactly matured. These two 20-somethings spend their time designing Mad Max-style muscle cars and trying to craft a homemade flamethrower in anticipation of a worldwide apocalyptic event where someone like the Lord Humongous will be out on the road attempting rule to wasteland. They're geeks - harmless and immature, nothing more than out-of-work nerds.

Enter Milly (Jessie Wiseman), a sexy free spirit who hits it off with Woodrow right away. The two start a relationship, forcing Aidan to the side and pushing their mutual George Miller-inspired fantasies, including the flamethrower, onto the back burner. But when Woodrow and Milly hit a rough patch, when infidelity rears its ugly head, things spiral out of control, and what might have started as a crazy, surreal homage to some apocalyptic Australian cult classics suddenly becomes something far more disturbed and borderline dangerous.

The feature debut for writer, director, producer, and star Glodell, Bellflower is an odd, unsettling, utterly captivating piece of dramatic hokum that enthralls and frustrates in almost equal measure. Polarizing audiences since its Sundance debut last January, the film made the festival rounds for most of the year before finally going into a limited theatrical release at the beginning of August. It is infuriating and exhilarating, wonderful and annoying, cliché and revolutionary, and with more problems than I can easily count (or recount, for that matter), but the simple truth of the matter is that I borderline loved it.

Why? There is something about the milieu that Glodell and company create that kept me glued to the screen no matter how absurd or idiotic things threatened to become. Better than that, there is an unhinged quality to the picture that was entrancing and kept me guessing, and while the blueprint much of the narrative follows is hardly original, the path it takes getting to its conclusion and the final images it chooses are anything but normal.

At the same time, it is readily apparent the filmmakers were working with an extremely limited budget and it is clear there were times where Glodell's imagination wasn't depicted as well as it could have been. The acting is all across the board - some of the performers hit just the right notes (Dawson stands out, as does Rebekah Brandes playing Milly's best friend), while others prove to be not quite up to the task (Wiseman in particular). The movie is unevenly edited and there are times Joel Hodge's digital cinematography bothered me, as the high-gloss copper sheen gave me a minor headache.

But emotionally and structurally, Bellflower hits a home run. There is something about Woodrow and his fantasies that kept me mesmerized. After he finds himself involved in a horrific accident, watching him come out of his physical and mental pain into a state of slightly deranged chaos is intimately satisfying. The places he goes, the ideas he has, the way he tries to recuperate and reinvigorate himself with Aidan's assistance, all of it adds together to equal something touching yet oddly bizarre. I could relate to what he was thinking and feeling - anyone who has ever had a relationship crash around them in scarring shards can't help but do so - yet at the same time I was aghast at what he might be capable of if push came to shove, and wondering if he'd let himself go there was the Damocles Sword hanging over whatever the outcome might turn out to be.

I can't bring myself to say any more. Just know that the final 20 minutes are something extraordinary, Glodell taking his film to a place that Louis Malle, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and Luis Buñuel would love to have called their own. The final image is out of this world and I find that no matter how hard I try (and, admittedly, I'm not trying all that hard) I can't get it out of my head. For all its faults, for everything that it doesn't get right, Bellflower is a first-degree independent stunner. Here's hoping adventurous audiences take the time to discover that fact for themselves.








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