Review: Bellflower


Hollywood can roll out all the bloodsucking barons, charming princes, and experts at espionage it wants to, but the war for 2011 is already being conquered one city at a time. I projected this year to be a creativity wasteland on the road to 2012’s mushroom cloud of excellence, but I wasn’t expecting there to be honest to God survivors. It’ll be the blonde haired wheelman in the driving jacket that remains in our memory when the dust settles. Exciting as Drive appears to be, I don’t mean Ryan Gosling.

Who is Evan Glodell? Hard to answer unless you’re one of the lucky few that cheered under the flickering amber light of dual flamethrowers, asphalt beneath rumbling to the anger of an engine scorned. As Evan’s film Bellflower toured the festival circuit, it did so with an automobile fit for battle against the dreamy sentimentality that defines indie flicks far too often. So, maybe you’re sold on the custom postapocalypticar, but I doubt you’ll be ready for how this film can hit home. The setting isn’t an aftermath of anything but overgrown adolescence. We’re not looking at an action film at all. Instead, Bellflower is for people who down beers under the stars, wishing there was a way to get out from under them. 

Ok so maybe, in fact, it is a bit sentimental in that way we’re accustomed, but the edge still defines it. Bellflower is lunatic Mumblecore. It has a soulful heart, located within a boot caked in dried mud, winding back gently for a little over a half hour, only to spend the rest of the film striking the crater sized bellybutton of preggers Juno and all movies like it.

Evan Glodell, to answer my own question, is the writer, director, co-producer, co-editor, and star of the 17,000 dollar Californicana in which two bosom buddies build muscle cars and flamethrowers when they’re not struggling to remain standing at the after parties. Glodell and his crew designed and assembled this movie from each working weapon to the sandy lens cameras it was shot with, giving the movie somewhat of a meta layer for those in the know. How much of this was based on Evan Glodell’s actual coming-of-rage early twenties? What are the odds of that jury-rigged equipment suddenly combusting with no budget for Band-Aids, let alone a skin graft?

Bellflower’s unemployed characters inhabit the kind of living conditions of an off-urban shantytown. As long as Woodrow (Glodell) and his best pal Aiden (Tyler Dawson) share each other’s impracticality, not a whole lot wrong with it, but they aren’t altogether cartoon characters either, and so a night out leads to the discovery of Milly, Fear Factor-esque champion of the local dive. Woodrow begins to romance this chick-that-can-hang with a spontaneous drive to Texas in pursuit of the scummiest lunch on radar, but when she prophesizes that she’d only hurt him, dude should have known he was gonna get burned. Maybe, instinctively, he wants to. Maybe we all do.

What transpires increasingly drifts into an expressionistic zone of negative emotions. Some will feel the film has lost control, others will apologize for making the movie theater staff clean their jaws off the floor. If among the latter, you’ll forget all about those questions you had about where these characters get money to buy gasoline, or what they would smell like under the sun.

It’s encouraging to know that someone had the mind to make this movie and still somehow pulled it together on elbow grease and a misfit crew. No stars to bring on thespian spectaculars, but more relatable in return. That said, there might be more to Rebekah Brandes than we’re seeing here. She’s a little too good in the part of a girl passing through empty relationships to not be going somewhere after Bellflower. The comic timing between Woodrow and Aiden doesn’t play well enough to advertise it as a Jackass buddy flick, but when talking over each other’s lines, the environment feels lived in and that friendship, founded. Apparently never considering the marketable, they built it, but would anyone come? In the form of a passionate cult following, I believe so. This is a film that precisely locks down a fresh generation as it’s forming an identity.

When I tried to play futurist awhile back, it was to determine the post-hipster. I failed in all likelihood, but two things that kept cropping up were the do-it-yourselfers, long popular with attendees of the Burning Man festival (Woodstock for desert hellions) and Dubstep music, on its way out in Europe but now getting lifted by the mainstream acts. Bellflower spins both. When I walked out of the theater I said to myself, “There it is. That’s what was lurking around the corner.”

It’ll still take time though. So far, Bellflower has only graced the stage at places like Sundance, where the celebs go to ski, Boston Independent Film Festival surrounded by Harvard parties that Glodell could shut down with a stare (when he’s not being sheepishly humble on Last Call with Carson Daly). Tribeca? It wasn’t on the roster, but chose that same weekend to park in front of the Planet Hollywood. The way Times Sq. is looking these days, ‘Medusa’ was probably the dirtiest thing within three blocks. Inside, where they served up a screening, you’ll find a $36 steak somewhere south of TGIF and watered down white Russians for $8.50.

No. People will discover this by accident, the same way I stumbled across Primer, a do-it-yourself time travel film. Some of those people will be filmmakers who are ready to ignite, and as time goes on, Evan Glodell might become their Lord Humongous. That is, unless Fox gets wise to this ballad of resourceful-machismo-coming-off-a-failed-relationship and mails him a suitcate filled with green paper and a script for Die Hard 5. Indie spirit or not, that’s gonna be tough to pass up when the only reason he made it home from SXSW was because P. Diddy gave him a thousand dollars on a whim.

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Alec Kubas-Meyer: I can count on one hand the number of films that have rendered me speechless. Bellflower is one of those films. Sure, the cinematography is often distracting in its blatant attempts to be “unique,” characters will occasionally do things with no apparent motivation, and the first half of the film is basically a bunch of alcoholic 20-somethings laughing and generally being uninteresting… but none of that matters in the end. When the film hits its stride, it’s like being hit by a double-decker bus. It’s been over a month since I first saw it, and I still have flashbacks to some of its more disturbing scenes. The film features some truly awe-inspiring moments as well as one of the strongest and most honest portrayals of friendship I have ever seen. It is not an easy film to sit through, but it’s an unforgettable ride. 84 – Great 

Andres Bolivar: While Bellflower may start out as your run of the mill hipster romance dreck, every fault is soon forgotten as the second half of the film transforms into this visceral experience of breakneck editing, archaic  cinematography and raw emotion. The constant juxtaposition of love, violence and apocalypse will become an exercise in trying to slow your heart rate down as you’re constantly forced to pick up your jaw from the floor. This tale of kinship, betrayal and a bad ass car is one of the most emotionally taxing films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching with my eye holes and a movie that is sure to stick with your soul for a long time. 84 – Great