CAPSULE: BELLFLOWER (2011)

DIRECTED BY: Evan Glodell

FEATURING: Evan Glodell, Tyler Dawson, Jessie Wiseman, Rebekah Brandes

PLOT:  Two jobless, hard-drinking college-age kids struggle with relationships as they

Still from Bellflower (2011)

spend their free time building flamethrowers and post-apocalyptic cars out of their favorite film, The Road Warrior.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Try telling people that a movie about the boozy, hallucination-ridden adventures of two slacker dudes who build mad muscle cars in hopes they can rule when Armageddon arrives doesn’t strike you as very weird, and they’ll look at you like you’re crazy.  But you’re right; at bottom, Bellflower is pretty ordinary (for the indie scene, that is).

COMMENTS:  Don’t be fooled by the marketing; despite the references to The Road Warrior, the flame-spewing hot rod centerpiece, and a brutally violent ending, for the most part Bellflower is indie mumblecore drama at its most relentlessly talky.  It’s hard to figure out how to take the movie, because it’s unclear how much of the script is deliberately delusional, and how much is merely myopic.  Thanks to a jumble of flashbacks and fantasies that fill the film’s final fifteen minutes, we’re not sure exactly how tragically Woodrow and Milly’s doomed love resolves, but a more subtle strangeness creeps in long before that.  Bellflower takes place in a Southern California suburb where everyone is over 21 and under 30 years old.  No one who lives there has ever heard of words like “school” or “job” (when Milly asks Woodrow what he does, his answer is “I’m building a flamethrower”), but they all have endless invisible lines of credit to pay for rent, booze, surplus car parts, and munitions.  It’s the perfect movie for anyone who has ever daydreamed about taking off for Texas on the spur of the moment in a car with a dashboard whiskey dispenser (Milly observes “it’s like a James Bond car for drunks!”) to eat truck stop meatloaf on a dare; it’s a dream of endlessly extended adolescence.  On the one hand, the entire story hangs on to plausibility’s cliff by just its fingernail; but on the other hand, it’s presented with hardcore realism—bad beards, overlapping slacker dialogue, and all.  Consider, for a moment, the following exchange.  After Woodrow is struck by a car, possibly sustaining brain damage, his loyal pal Aiden tells him, “you were pretty messed up, mumbling all sorts of weird crap.”  Woodrow asks: “Was it awesome?”  Aiden: “No, dude, it wasn’t awesome!”  This is an egregious example of typical Bellflower dialogue (I didn’t count words, but I wouldn’t be that shocked to hear that 1/10 of the words in the script were either “dude” or “awesome”).  It sounds like it should be a sly comment on the vacuous vocabulary of youth, but there’s little obvious humor or insight to suggest either satire or subcultural self-reflection; it seems aimed at trying to capture “the way people really talk.”  Woodrow and Aiden are obsessed with the “Mad Max” movies and look to Lord Humungous as a role model, but they’re way too cool to believe the apocalypse is literally coming (that would be a different movie).  They’re just extreme, photogenic fanboys with way too much free time on their hands with which to build awesome muscle cars.  It’s possible the entire movie—and not just the apocalyptic, romantic finale—is meant to be nerdy Woodrow’s self-aggrandizing, psychotic hallucination, but the film gives every indication of wanting to be taken seriously as an earnest romantic drama.  In reality, geeky tinkerers Woodrow and Aiden would be delusional dweebs, more Gyro Captains than Lord Humungouses, but Bellflower seems eager to convince us they’re actually awesome lady killers who melt the panties off hot hipster chicks.  To which I can only say: seriously, dude?

As much as I had problems with Bellflower‘s script, which never nails down a sure attitude to its characters’ lives, the technical aspects of the film (especially Joel Hodge’s cinematography) are excellent for a first feature.  Technical types will love this YouTube video the crew put up explaining the “ghetto-rigged” homemade camera they built for the shoot.  This is the equipment everyone will be using to shoot films after the apocalypse.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“A weird mix of John Hughes and ‘Mad Max’… with the sunburned intensity of a high-summer fever dream.”–James Rocchi (festival screening)

3 thoughts on “CAPSULE: BELLFLOWER (2011)”

  1. The way you point this film weirdness I’m never going to watch this film. But curiosity made convinced to watch it :). So buddy I’ll give a good attempt to watch this film ;). Thanks
    [Spam link removed]

  2. Would someone who isn’t familiar with Mumblecore perhaps find this odd, like myself?
    Or is there better options for me to choose in being introduced to the genre?

    1. I don’t like mumblecore much (mainly because I like movies where the conversation is unnatural, i.e. smarter and more interesting than in real life), so I may be the wrong person to ask for recommendations. But as this is relatively “weird” mumblecore offering it may be a good one for our readers looking to dip into the subgenre.

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