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  • Jeff Marker


    husband, dad, teacher, filmmaker, writer, film geek, musician, DIYer, vegetarian, Bulldog, Buckeye, Nighthawk

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Review: Bellflower

Bellflower, an ultra-low budget indie written by, directed by, and starring Evan Glodell, is both a mediocre movie and an impressive, noble effort. Glodell reportedly made the movie for around $17,000 and customized a prosumer-level HD camera so radically that he could legitimately claim that he invented something new. (Check out Jonathan W. Hickman’s interview with Glodell, which includes a discussion of the camera.) The movie has a unique look and structure, and the performances are all strong for a next-to-no-budget production. But ultimately, all of this effort and ingenuity are expended on cookie cutter indie characters and a story that is little more than early twentysomethings over-dramatizing short-lived relationships.

For the entire first act, I thought I was watching mumblecore, a genre of which I am not a fan. Best buds Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) are obsessed with Mad Max, apocalyptic notions, and blowing up stuff. When they aren’t testing explosives, they drink a lot of beer and talk a lot of nonsense. They go to a bar one night, and Woodrow hits it off with a cute extrovert named Milly (Jessie Wiseman). They soon go on their first real date and end up driving a few hours away to go to a restaurant that Woodrow promises will scare the hell out of Milly – it’s her idea. Aiden, meanwhile, hooks up with Milly’s friend Courtney (Rebekah Brandes).

It’s fairly standard mumblecore until things start to go bad between Woodrow and Milly, at which point Woodrow becomes increasingly violent and self-destructive. The movie expresses Woodrow’s pain through explosions, intimate acts of violence, and a muscle car that looks like it was forged in hell. This makes the film more interesting on the one hand, but it implicitly attempts to elevate the pain of a brief, doomed-from-the-start relationship among two post-college drifters to the status of the the apocalypse. I’m not exaggerating here. The movie’s tagline is, “A love story with apocalyptic stakes.” You know how when you were in your teens and early twenties the end of a relationship seemed like the end of the world? They make that idea rather literal in Bellflower. Being old enough to look back with embarrassment at the overly melodramatic break-ups of my youth, I just had a hard time buying into it, especially when the movie creeps along so much of the time to begin with.

I can’t deny, though, that the style is often interesting. I just wish there was a bit more substance to back it up.

The movie played at Sundance, earned Glodell a Gotham Awards nomination for Breakthrough Director, and generated an impressive amount of buzz. I really wanted to like it, but I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it. I am impressed by Glodell’s boldness and aesthetics, though, and I will definitely keep an eye out for future work by Glodell, Wiseman, and Brandes.

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