Tribeca Film Festival Review: Flower

“Flower”’s credits boast an executive producer credit for Danny McBride. Erica Vandross —the film’s 17 year-old protagonist played by Zooey Deutch— has a bit in common with McBride’s signature character, Kenny Powers. Both are hyperactive, hypersexual iconoclasts with a talent for instigating conflict. Despite this outward abrasiveness, Erica and Kenny often prove to be sensitive at heart. On the surface, McBride’s involvement with the latest from director Max Winkler (“The King of Central Park”, “Clark and Michael”, “Ceremony”) seems apparent.

However, the film suffers in its writing, a typically strong aspect of McBride-produced projects like “Eastbound & Down” and “Vice Principals”. The visual cliches of indie movies abound; the insipidness of suburban life is conveyed with shots of our disaffected hero listlessly riding her bike down a cul-de-sac, while cinematographer Carolina Costa lenses the action with a gauzy focus to evoke nostalgia for youth. Motivations are reduced to the very basics of armchair psychology. It’s bad enough that the screenplay —written by Winkler with Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer— reduces the cause of Erica’s propensity for giving casual oral sex to missing her currently incarcerated father, but it’s even worse that the teen flat-out explains her advances on a hot older guy (Adam Scott) as stemming from daddy issues. Sub-Apatow, pseudo-improvised jokes along the lines of, “I feel like his dick has a tax attorney,” lace a screenplay far removed from the reality of how people look, speak, and act.

The talented Deutch salvages what she can from the text, but the most noteworthy performance comes from comedy provocateur Tim Heidecker. Let’s be clear: you either buy what Tim Heidecker is selling or you don’t, so your mileage may very well vary depending on your previous experiences of his work. If you enjoy his work, there is much to enjoy here in his role as the man dating Erica’s mom (Kathryn Hahn.) Heidecker has squareness down to a science, perfectly conjuring an uncool stepdad vibe while also hinting at the disappointments and tragedies that pulled him down that path. It’s a pity that Heidecker gets less screentime as the film yields to a ludicrous revenge plot involving the character’s addict son (Joey Morgan) and Erica. “Flower” is a film determined to sabotage itself regardless of the game cast’s best efforts to keep it on-track.