"Flower," the new dark teen comedy from director Max Winkler, starring Zoey Deutch was made in 16 days with a half a million dollar budget. Not bad for a flick that's earned a yellow check as a NYT Critic's Pick.
Not bad for a film that begins with an underage girl giving a police officer a blow job.
That's right. When we first meet Deutch's character, Erica Vandross, she’s performing oral sex on a cop in his squad car. Nearby, her own squad secretly records the encounter in order to blackmail him. They score a paltry 400 bucks from officer Dale (the entirety of his bank account), as part of an ongoing extortion hustled up by Erica to earn enough cash to bail her dear old dad out of jail. What, you weren't a vigilante at 17? As Deutch says in the movie’s trailer, “Shaking down a child molester is our moral obligation.” Sure, at her high school she gets called a “slut,” but Erica, rather believably to the credit of Deutch's portrayal, does not care what anyone thinks of her. “It's called feminism," she tells Luke (Joey Morgan), the son of her mother Laurie's (Kathryn Hahn) new boyfriend.
There are male critics who don't love the flick. But women (and the New York Times) are in agreement: it fucking rocks. For Deutch, who played the *almost* only female in Richard Linklater's "Everybody Wants Some," and last year's "Before I Fall" it was an opportunity to play a role traditionally written for a dude.
Erica is confident, but manic. Oogles the hot old dude at the bowling alley. Wears socks with slides, rocks a mean mom-jean short, a "Daddy" t-shirt, enjoys giving blowjobs and drawing said penises in her diary of dick. In short: Erica's not "likable," or so say the powers-that-be-reviewers. There are a laundry list of unbecoming traits that friends and fam heeded the actress against. "I must have poor reading comprehension skills. I thought she was fucking awesome," joked Deutch. "The unanimous response was, 'Aren't you afraid of playing someone potentially so unlikeable?'"
The answer simply, was no. In fact the only part of the movie that flummoxed the then-twenty-year-old was a dancing scene. "Blowjob scenes, totally fine," Deutch jokes. "But dancing was the worst. I'm the worst dancer."
"Blowjob scenes, totally fine," Deutch jokes. "But dancing was the worst. I'm the worst dancer."
But the way she carries the film is a dance. That between "likable" and "unlikable," teetering between the two so deftly that you're not, NOT rooting for her. Despite her shortcomings and occasional cruelty, you want Erica to win at life, to love herself, to reclaim her innocence, at least in some capacity. She's not without soul. She's certainly not without heart. "Flower" shows teens as they are-- not as they ought to be.
It's also fun and so refreshing to see this part played by a woman, you understand.
"This kind of character when played by a man is morally ambiguous," says Deutch. "When it's a woman," she continues, again returning to that word women all too often hear in the workplace, "she's unlikable." Contrary to the warnings of peers, Deutch says playing the role of Erica "is the most profound and fun and fulfilling thing I've done in my career so far."
"This kind of character when played by a man is morally ambiguous. When it's a woman she's unlikable."
Her director, Max Winkler, agrees. "I'm really proud of her performance," he says. "For a twenty year old to be able to carry a movie like that...I'm still not jaded by how good she is." It's an enthusiasm he likewise shared for his crew. On set, he says, "Almost all of our department heads, except for the gaffer and the grip, were women." Adding, "The set ran so much better. Everyone follows the DP on set, and there was no ego, there was no fighting."
"It was so weird for me to realized that I had never worked with a female DP," says Deutch of Carolina Costa, the film's Director of Photography. From there Deutch started looking into other film set stats. "Did you know that less than one percent of women score movies?" she asks. She didn't. Now she does.
Though the film was made two years pre-#metoo movement, there are parallels that alone make the movie worth seeing. Without giving away any spoilers, while the solutions the teens come to in moments of revenge, and subsequent panic, aren't necessarily the best solutions, they are still taking action. Which is something that Deutch is all about. "We're not capitalizing on the movement," says the actress, "but the hope is that all of the discussions breed more action."
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