Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bellflower

Messy, incredibly pointless, but jarringly well made, Evan Glodell's "Bellflower" (named after the street in Los Angeles on which most of the action takes place) pays no attention to film conventions. Rules are meant to be broken, sure, but all the same, it's good for a narrative feature to have some structure. Like the lives of its characters, "Bellflower" is devoted to ridiculous, involved ventures and ultimately goes into ambiguous territory, lacking a regard for the audience and not really giving a shit.

Nothing substantial is known about roommates Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) except for the fact that they have an intense obsession with "Mad Max" and are willing to go to extreme lengths to make that film into a reality. With the excuse that an apocalypse will come, they've set aside a lot of time and money (the latter of which is weird, since they don't seem to have jobs or family to inherit from) to build a flamethrower and pimp out a car they call Medusa. They also have time to try to pick up women at a dive bar. Woodrow, the more (at least initially) personable of the two, loses a cricket-eating contest to Milly (Jessie Wiseman) at said bar and a kinetic relationship begins. I say kinetic because after Milly says she wants to go somewhere trashy on their first date, the two take an impromptu cross-country road trip to Texas to eat at a dingy redneck establishment that Woodrow and Aiden visited a while back. This sojourn takes up roughly 1/5 of the film's running time, and veers sharply into precociousness. It's touching, but further emphasizes that "Bellflower" is (deliberately or not) far out of touch with reality.

Perhaps due to the fact that Milly spends so much time with Woodrow at the onset, or because Woodrow is a little too soft-spoken for his own good, but their setup eventually caves in with Milly cheating on Woodrow with her roommate. This sends the film down a road seething with aggression, where delirium abounds.

This film makes the viewer do acrobatic jumps through hoops probably more than any recent example that I can think of, at one point splintering off from an image of decision to explore a terrifying narrative detour before coming back and heading off in an entirely different direction. This can be much better appreciated as an idea than as an actual technique, especially since nothing really comes when both shoes have dropped. Glodell needs to realize this before he makes more movies like this one. However, "Bellflower"'s craft, from the ultra-saturated photography to the techno/spare-acoustic juxtapositions on the soundtrack, is astonishing and something that Glodell can lean on for his future works as keystone. If only all other components of the film could have gripped me so intensely. B-

1 comment:

Steph said...

"ultimately goes into ambiguous territory, lacking a regard for the audience and not really giving a shit" ... I'm trying to decide whether this is a criticism or a compliment. Or whether it matters. :-)

I don't think this movie would be my cup of tea, but you've intrigued me, especially when you called it "jarringly well made" and talked about the hoops viewers must leap through. Great review! This is probably the most fun film review I've read in a while.