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Bellflower

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/17/11 06:06:01

"The Guy Who Couldn't Get Beyond Thunderdome."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Every year or so, a small movie made by unknowns comes out of nowhere and becomes an sensation among film buffs and the media thanks to the quality of the finished product and the fascinating backstory of how it got to be made in the first place. These films may not necessarily set the movie world on fire but they oftentimes signal the emergence of a surprising new talent that is on the verge of making it big. This year, that title will most likely wind up going to "Bellflower," a super-low-budget (think a five-figure budget) mixture of action, romance and psychodrama that may not be perfect but is so filled with energy and ingenuity that it puts the mega-budget likes of "Transformers" to shame.

The film stars newcomer Evan Glodell (who also wrote and directed) as Woodrow, a sweet-faced and seemingly pleasant guy who, along with childhood friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson), has moved from Wisconsin to a tatty L.A. neighborhood and spends virtually all his time (neither of the two seem to have any sort of job) paying homage to the "Mad Max" movies and jokingly preparing for the apocalypse building their own flamethrowers and refurbishing an old muscle car to resemble the one driven by "The Road Warrior" baddie Humongous. One night, while at a weird dive bar, Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) when they compete against each other in a cricket-eating contest. For Woodrow, it is love at first sight and while Milly is a bit hesitant at first, she gets swept up as well when the two go on an impulsive jaunt to Texas. For a while, things are wonderful but before too long, the relationship ends as surprisingly and abruptly as it began and things begin to go bad for Woodrow and anyone unlucky enough to be around him in ways that are best left for you to discover on your own.

The idea of watching the emotional upheaval of a increasingly unhinged gearhead may strike some of you as a particularly unfulfilling way of spending 10 dollars and 90 minutes but I promise you that while it may not be the flat-out masterpiece that some have claimed it to be, it is definitely worth checking out. From a technical standpoint, the film is an absolute marvel in the way that Glodell defies his minuscule budget with a visual style that is utterly unique in the way that it captures the perspective of Woodrow's shattered psyche to such a degree that it becomes impossible at time to tell what is real and what is fantasy/nightmare. As an actor, Glodell is a fresh and engaging performer, even during his darkest moments, and the other cast members (including Rebekah Brandes as a friend of Milly's who briefly dates Aiden, takes up with Woodrow after his breakup and eventually comes to regret that decision) are equally convincing and fascinating to watch. As a writer-director, Glodell is even more interesting in the way that he takes a concept that could have deeply unpleasant and irritating in the wrong hands and tackles it in a fearless and heedless manner that is more than a match for the material at hand.

"Bellflower" is not a perfect film by any means. There are times when the shifting levels of reality become a little too muddled for their own good and while the film as a whole is not the misogynistic nightmare that some of its critics have decried it as being, it does come close enough to that at times to ensure that such accusations are not completely unfounded. However messy it may be at certain points, "Bellflower" is a unique cinematic experience and whether you love it or hate it (and this is one of those where there will be virtually no middle ground), it is one of those increasingly rare films that, once seen, is unlikely to be forgotten anytime soon. If nothing else, you should probably go and see it simply because there is a very good chance than Evan Glodell is going to be the next big thing and you have an opportunity to get in on the ground floor so that if it does happen, you can sneer at all the latecomers that you were into him back in the early days.

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