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Bellflower or The Most Annoying Film of the Year
I have to be honest here, I am barely ever compelled to come on the web and write a review for a movie with a negative thrust. For one thing, I watch all types of films, even the so-called no budget or low budget films that other people will stay clear from. In fact, just this year, I have seen all the Sundance NEXT films, some at the Sundance premiere in January, and some, like BELLFLOWER, only recently. I feel the need to clear that first, so that I'm not accused of a negative bias for ultra small films.
I had heard the buzz of BELLFLOWER at Sundance, and I missed it, and my trip to SXSW was too brief to catch, so, I waited patiently for the theatrical. Up until then, I had read many things about the movie, plenty of positive reviews, and was pretty enthralled by the trailer. I should have been a little more cautious on the get go, seeing that even the trailer was a little fishy. You know, it was extremely light on substance, but full of those great pull quotes from the likes of Peter Travers, the king of whoring a few positive lines for maximum effect. And, of course, the reviews themselves were mostly copies of one another, with a great chunk of prose spent on context based stuff like, "the film cost 17,000", or "they made there own camera's", and even, "he wrote about his own break-up". This stuff is mostly about justification and the press angle, so, I'm not going fault the work on that.
But, lets get to the actual film itself, and how this particular film outright compelled me to come on the web and give my two cents. Basically, the film is in essence, a break up movie. The lead character Woodrow, played here by the director himself is a typical "disaffected" young man, who, along with his best friend spends his days drinking, smoking and with the country boy craftsmanship of building "cool" stuff. They are seen spending time blowing stuff up at the beginning. Soon, they go out to what I assume is a dive bar, and low and behold, a cricket eating contest (in LA mind you), when we meet our lead female, the narrative conflict of the movie. We see Woodrow and soon to be lady friend Milly engage in eating crickets in slow mo, while a "cool" music track plays in the background. This is the essence of the movie. These bits of music video montage scenes are in my mind, the only respectable albeit very thin moments of the film, especially the final moments. They come and go in-between some of the most banal, and base scenes I have seen in years.
After this, Woodrow picks up Milly for a first date, and she proposes they go and eat at the most disgusting restaurant around, and guess what, Woodrow has a suggestion, but its located in Texas. So, what happens next, shoot, they go to Texas. The film carries on in this vein. I can go on, but even writing about it gets tiresome.
Anyways, to shorten this up, the relationship heads south, but for no reason other then the fact that Milly tells Woodrow that she is going to hurt him. And then she hurts him. Yup, thats it, because things go bad in relationships, but the audience is left to just assume things happen. The problem is, we are not lead to care any bit about them. All this heartbreak stuff doesn't add up, when you don't buy any of it. The film then continues to jump ahead and behind after an accident. And then things get violent, but in a pretty safe way. The film basically alludes to everything, and always in an extremely swallow, hey look at me mom kind of way. But heck, they built a "totally sweet ride brah" . With the finale going straight into film school cope out mode. I won't say anymore, so that I don't spoil the twist.
As you can tell, I did not like this movie. It felt as cliché as could be. I did not like the characters, all of whom became increasingly annoying. I did not like the writing. I did not like the acting, which goes into B level and below many, many times. And the visual style gets pretty dang boring after awhile. Note to some reviewers; spend some time on Vimeo, or Tumblr, and yeah, you got the visual aesthetic this strives for. Basically, everybody is doing that anyway, and really, swallow depth of field and especially tilt shift is boring when used for no reason other then, "to look cool". Which apply describes the hipster culture itself. It yells to be looked at, but on closer inspection, you realize that all its desires are superficial. Thats all it knows.
And that sums up the film for me. Everything done for effect, and nothing done to strive for a deeper reading. And thats the issue, because its not even entertaining. In fact, its altogether boring, but in the American style of boring, and not in the European, sophisticated, by design way boring.
I guess maybe its utility is best served as a sort of Hollywood calling card for the troupe, and for that, maybe it succeeds. But for something that I have to pay money to watch, no. And truth be told, if this was for free, I would probably pass as well.