Max Winkler's Flower is destined to launch Zoey Deutch's career into a new level of recognition. Rarely do character and actor pair so remarkably well. The film around this excellent performance, however, is a bit more uneven and forgettable.
The film opens with Erica Vandross (Deutch) conning a cop by performing oral sex on him before her friends jump out of the bushes with their phones recording. They milk him for money and go on their way. From this first moment, the film wears its producer's style on its shoulders, Matt Spicer who did last year's Ingrid Goes West, Jody Hill, and Danny Mcbride. This opening also announces what a brazen, confident and kind of terrible person that Erica is. One of the refreshing qualities of Flower is that allows Erica to be this mix of obnoxious and amoral but also honest and compelling.
The main thrust of the story involves Erica attempting to aide her stepbrother (Joey Morgan) in getting revenge on a potential sexual abuser (Adam Scott). The cast also includes the hilarious Kathryn Hahn as Erica's mom and Tim Heidecker as her stepfather. The mix of comedians in supporting roles and the dark plot material may sound odd. It is as Winkler never seems to be able to get a handle on the film's tone.
The upbeat nature of how the film is shot and the injection of shocking humor undercuts the moments when the film wants to get dramatic.
This dynamic in plot and tone works better in the film's superior first half. Winkler completely fumbles the film's finale, shooting for a big emotional payoff that doesn't feel earned. In fact, it hardly makes sense given what has come before. Despite all this, Deutch remains a captivating force. Even when I got frustrated with the film's tonal dissonance, her performance made me want to keep watching Flower.