In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb wildlife

Wildlife

One never senses judgment from Dano, Kazan, Gyllenhaal, or Mulligan—they recognize that there’s beauty even in the mistakes we make in life. It’s what makes…

Thumb halloween poster

Halloween

Do you know the biggest sin of the new Halloween? It’s just not scary. And that’s one thing you could never say about the original.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives

Reviews

Bellflower

Bellflower Movie Review
  |  

"Bellflower" is a scrappy indie movie that comes out of nowhere and blows up stuff real good. It also possibly represents the debut of a one-of-a-kind filmmaker, a natural driven by wild energy, like Tarantino. I know what the budget was, but if I told you, you'd arrive at all the wrong conclusions. Let's say Evan Glodell had all the money he needed to make this particular movie and more might have changed it for the worse.

Here is a movie about two buddies who aimlessly hang around in their workshop, designing, oh, you know, things like apocalyptic flame throwers. When they suspend a fuel tank in mid-air and fire at it with a shotgun just to see what might happen, I had the odd notion that they might have filmed the shot only once and found out at the same time we did. A movie this size, how many standby fuel tanks are you gonna buy?

Advertisement

Woodrow and Aiden (Evan Glodell and Tyler Dawson) are two "Jackass" types, and I mean that with the greatest respect. They were pals in Wisconsin, joined up to move to California and live in a town that consists entirely of the poor neighborhood. They are apparently unemployed. They are customizing a classic muscle car they name the Medusa, which when it is finished, will be capable of throwing terrifying plumes of flame into the air and … making quite an impression.

One night they are in a bar. They get involved in a contest requiring them to eat live crickets. This isn't completely crazy; I understand insects are a good source of protein and minerals. Woodrow finds himself in the finals with a friendly blond named Milly (Jessie Wiseman), and it's kismet. You know how sometimes you lock eyes with another person, and in a brief moment, everything is said that needs to be said?

Woodrow does. Milly isn't so sure. Maybe she's met lovable cricket-eaters before. "I could be bad for you," she warns Woodrow. If he falls for her, he could get hurt. He accepts this risk, and on a lark, they set off for Texas to have some good times.

All of this happens with a certain foreboding of doom, because the movie has opened with a quick-cut montage of alarming events apparently destined to happen later in the story. These are fragmented enough so that they're not really spoilers, and indeed providing a straightforward chronology is not the movie's purpose. It's more about the rise and fall of their romance; the rise of Woodrow's interest in Milly's friend, Courtney (Rebekah Brandes); a counterpoint with Aiden's experiences, and the presence of a man named Mike (Vincent Grashaw), who Woodrow didn't realize was already in Milly's life.

The film is essentially a mumblecore rom-com, although that makes it sound too derivative. Glodell is an engaging hands-on director (he built not only the Medusa but also the camera he uses) and an engaging actor. His cast is always convincing. His screenwriting lacks a shade in clarity, but then, so do the lives of these characters. The cinematography, by Joel Hodge, is raw and high-contrast, weathered and full of character, with lots of blood reds. It wouldn't take much work by a designer to make a ripped T-shirt out of the look here. And when the Medusa belches flames, man oh man, people notice.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix’s Terrifying, Moving The Haunting of Hill House is Essential Viewing

A review of Mike Flanagan's new horror series based on the Shirley Jackson novel, The Haunting of Hill House.

Always Leave 'Em Laughing: Peter Bogdanovich on Buster Keaton, superheroes, television, and the effect of time on movies

Peter Bogdanovich, film historian and filmmaker, talks about Buster Keaton, the subject of his new documentary.

"It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" Gets the Deluxe Treatment from Criterion

An epic essay on an epic comedy of the 1960s, now given deluxe treatment on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus