For the past 3 years, I have had the opportunity to attend the Tribeca Film Festival viewing some of the most entertaining films including world premieres. From Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fabulous take in Maggie in 2015 to 2016’s premiere of the Academy Award winning O.J: Made In America, the festival is never short of memorable films and documentaries. This year, my Tribeca experience opened up with Max Winkler’s latest film, Flower. This film sets the bar high for this year’s slate of films and is a powerful coming of age story that looks at the joys and sorrows of reckless adolescence.
Flower stars Zoey Deutch (Before I Fall) as Erica, a teenage girl who is on a mission for love and validation from her father, who is currently in prison. How does she do this? Through her oral sex talents and a scheme with friends to extort money from men around the town as a form to eventually bail her father out of jail. However, at home things are changing as her mother’s boyfriend and his over-weight son Luke move in after Luke’s stint in rehab. Erica has to deal and navigate through all the personal changes and eventually make choices that could change her life.
What I immediately loved about Flower is that Winkler does not shy away from letting the audience know where he is taking his film from the opening moments. The film opens with the camera panning towards a car and as we get closer, it promptly shifts to Erica giving a police officer a blowjob in his cruiser. That initial moment can check some out of the film but I was in and curious about the journey Winkler was about to take the audience on.
Despite the serious tone of the premise, Winkler is able to blend in just the right amount of comedy within the film that not only balances out the drama but also doesn’t take away from the serious tones of the film. From scenes at the bowling alley to Erica hanging with her friends, Flower is able to capture not only the hearts of its audience but their laughs as well.
Outside of Winkler’s fine directing, the film works so well because of the performances of Zoey Deutch and Joey Morgan. Deutch has a career best performance as Erica. Deutch is able to bring out the false sense of wisdom and knowledge that most teenagers hold nowadays and by the film’s end, it comes full circle that not everything is rainbows, flowers, and butterflies. She is aided by Joey Morgan as Luke. When we first meet Luke, he starts off as the typical formulaic kid out of rehab and by film’s end he is endearing, lighthearted 18-year old whose subtle jokes and comedy within the film hit at the right time.
My issue with Flower is the final 15 minutes. Too many things are thrown out of left field that just felt forced and unnecessary. While the film ultimately concludes in a nice neat fashion, it felt a little too neat with all the events that took place within the last few minutes of the film.
Flower kicks off my 2017 Tribeca Film Festival on a high note as it is a film that surely will be in contention for the audience award and a film that has bloomed the expectations to another level as the festival continues.
Reel Talk gives Flower 3.5 Reels