Bellflower opens Friday in select theaters (see times below)
If you’re a not a man who just got screwed over by a woman you thought you loved, and you now spend your days in a stifling rage, muttering “That bitch!” every time you think of, well, that bitch, then there is really no reason for you to go see Bellflower. Nor should you be in the lobby of any theater that is screening it.
In other words, Bellflower is about male heartbreak. The jilted man in question is Woodrow (played by writer/ director Evan Glodell), an aw-shucks Wisconsin guy who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of the title, apparently a haven for boozing slackers. A lover of the Mad Max movies, he spends most of his days with his like-minded best friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson), prepping for the end times by making their own flamethrower and building a bad-ass muscle car they can take on joyrides through desolate, post-apocalyptic deserts together.
One night at a bar, Woodrow catches the attention of Milly (Jessie Wiseman), a free-spirited wild child who goes up against him in a cricket-eating contest. (She wins, by the way.) Despite the fact that she’s a standard MPDG (the Manic Pixie Dream Girl typified by Natalie Portman in Garden State), an unpredictable honeydip who’s down for whatever (for their first date, they drive all the way to Texas just so they can eat at a greasy spoon he mentioned), she does warn our boy not to get too close. “I’ll hurt you, and I won’t be able to help it,” she tells him during a tender moment. But Woodrow is already too smitten to listen.
Sure enough, ol’ girl does break dude’s heart, which sends our protagonist down a rabbit hole of sadness and despairbut not just any rabbit hole. The second half has him (and the audience) straddling the line between fantasy and reality, engulfed in a furious, personally catastrophic tailspin where he literally scorches the earth in vengeful anger.
A hit at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Bellflower is a chaotic, fiercely personal film so intent on being an antagonistic, unpleasant experience, exposing you to the violent scorn that shows up once a would-be alpha male gets his heart stomped, it’s difficult to recommend it even to those poor, forlorn bastards I mentioned earlier who could appreciate the story. The main characters are mentally unhinged assholes you wouldn’t want to associate with (one of them even says to another, “You know our friends are a bunch of tools, right?”). With all the bitter stuff he pulls in front of and behind the camera, it’s almost like Glodell is trying to knock Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) off his throne as the most aesthetically angry actor-director out there.
While it may win over folks with its woozy, dreamlike, visual look, which makes it resemble an indie rock video from the mid-’90s (ever the clever tinkerer, Glodell made the cameras for this film out of vintage, digital and Russian camera parts), Bellflower may also disgust others with its nasty, nihilistic narrative. Basically, Bellflower is a movie for those who thought (500) Days of Summer was some pussy-ass bullshit.