2018, R, 93 min. Directed by Max Winkler. Starring Zoey Deutch, Kathryn Hahn, Tim Heidecker, Adam Scott, Joey Morgan, Dylan Gelula, Maya Eshet.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., March 23, 2018

Straddling tones that range between vulgar and sweet, Flower uncomfortably shrivels under the strain. This teen saga, which opens with a discomfiting sexual encounter and ends in an implausibly upbeat manner, may mimic the frequent mood swings of a typical teenager but will not hold up to serious narrative scrutiny. A luminous performance by Zoey Deutch as lead character Erica, along with terrific work by Kathryn Hahn as her laissez-faire mother, go a long way toward making the film’s cynicism palatable. But there’s a naivete about the film that only a teen at heart could love.

The movie begins with the sound of heavy breathing as the camera moves in to discover Erica’s head in the lap of a local cop parked in his cruiser. Her two BFFs soon close in and record video of the ruddy policeman who doesn’t want to pay up. Even though fellatio and extortion are Erica’s idea of fun, she keeps a record of her “earnings” in a spreadsheet and is saving up for enough bail money to spring her father from jail. Before you have time to blurt out “daddy issues,” Erica’s mom Laurie announces that her uncool boyfriend Bob (Heidecker) is going to move in with them, along with his overweight son Luke (Morgan), who is just getting out of drug rehab. After a testy beginning, Erica and Luke bond, and, despite righteous motives, casually commit a deadly crime. Yet, theirs is a world with few serious consequences, and all ends relatively happily, with no life lessons learned.

Flower began life as a hot Black List script by Alex McAulay. The movie’s Diablo Cody-esque vibe was enhanced by screenwriter Matt Spicer (who recently wrote and directed Ingrid Goes West, another offbeat but more successfully satiric film starring a hard-to-like female protagonist) and Flower’s director Max Winkler (son of Fonzie). Among the executive producers are members of North Carolina’s creative mob: Jody Hill, Danny McBride, and David Gordon Green (The Foot Fist Way). As a starring vehicle for Deutch, Flower is an aromatic concoction, but as a thorny coming-of-age story the film’s buds wither on the vine.

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Flower, Max Winkler, Zoey Deutch, Kathryn Hahn, Tim Heidecker, Adam Scott, Joey Morgan, Dylan Gelula, Maya Eshet

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