‘Flower’ Film Review: Talented Cast Set Adrift in Disappointing Teen Satire

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It’s hard to know whether Erica Vandross, the 17-year-old at the center of Max Winkler’s “Flower,” is meant to be an a-hole we unexpectedly like or a likeable person who sometimes behaves like an a-hole, but Zoey Deutch’s performance constitutes one of the most curious mis-applications of natural acting charisma I’ve ever seen.

Deutch, winning in a lot of films unworthy of her (“Why Him,” “Dirty Grandpa,” “Vampire Academy”), commands the screen as if the quandary doesn’t matter, while Winkler and co-screenwriters Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer construct a story that lurks somewhere between “Sixteen Candles,” “Palo Alto” and “Fish Tank” but without the humor, insight or poetry needed to match her fearless, irresistible talent.

Deutch plays Erica Vandross, a San Fernando Valley teenager trying to earn enough money to spring her estranged father from jail by seducing local sleazeballs and then shaking them down for cash. Though she’s stayed willfully oblivious to the relationship her frazzled bohemian mom Laurie (Kathryn Hahn) starts with a kind-hearted square named Bob (Tim Heidecker), Erica finds her life turned upside down after his troubled son Luke (Joey Morgan, “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse”) arrives fresh and vulnerable from rehab.

Also Read: ‘Flower’ Tribeca Review: Zoey Deutch Stars in a Toxic ‘Juno’ Knock-Off

At Laurie’s urging, Erica and Luke form a tenuous bond largely built on the few semi-friendly exchanges they share when she isn’t being mercilessly blunt. But after learning that much of Luke’s pain comes from an unresolved claim that he was sexually assaulted by Will (Adam Scott), a former teacher who still lives in their community, Erica recruits high school cohorts Kala (Dylan Gelula, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Claudine (Maya Eshet, “Teen Wolf”) to avenge her future step-brother, unleashing a chain of events that forces them to deal with the very adult consequences of their teenage games whether they’re ready to or not.

The reason that so much of “Flower” works as well as it does is because it’s anchored so deeply by Deutch’s performance, which effortlessly dances on that razor’s edge between sympathetic and insufferable. There’s something identifiable and occasionally even charming about Erica, who is savvier and more streetwise than any of her adult counterparts, but she’s driven by a desperate absence of guidance — an almost clichéd need for some kind of structure or limitations — that leads her to suitably misguided choices.

Also Read: ‘Big Little Lies’: Adam Scott to Return for Season 2

As a teen trying to navigate her way through not one but two fractured parental relationships, Deutch imbues Erica with an agency that feels at once wildly unseemly, perversely appealing and utterly believable, the precise sort of preternatural maturity that would ensnare susceptible men not just against their better judgment, but hers as well.

The remainder of the cast bring their characters to vivid, believable life, from Gelula and Eshet’s dopey, media-saturated teenage wokeness as Erica’s partners in crime to Hahn’s apologetic, perfectly scattered take on Laurie’s laissez-faire parenting. For a comedian exceptionally skilled at going broad, and weird, Tim Heidecker offers a skillfully understated take as the uncool suitor who wins Laurie’s heart (and shows her firebrand daughter uncommon, and largely undeserved, patience), while Adam Scott manages to be convincingly skeptical — if not quite heedless enough — in his dealings with Erica, particularly as a man living in the shadow of an appropriately insurmountable accusation.

Watch Video: Kathryn Hahn Hails the Female ‘Roar’ of Vulnerability in ‘I Love Dick’

Unfortunately, Winkler and his co-screenwriters further muddy the intriguing moral complexity of Erica’s cycle of seduction and exploitation, as well as Luke’s molestation claims, first by interjecting her burgeoning feelings for Will into their pursuit of “justice,” and then by turning the story upside down with a series of events that feel increasingly implausible and “movie-ish,” maybe unless John Hughes was writing them three or more decades ago.

The nuanced character development of early scenes is replaced with a cartoonish sort of escalation of stakes, not to mention some improbable choices, including a disastrously-timed confession of feelings, that would have been rightfully, perhaps satisfyingly called out by the characters had they maintained the wry self-awareness that initially made them so complex, unique and interesting.

Further, and even without conversations in the zeitgeist providing an unflattering context for the events in the film, there’s a reasonable question whether, even if only incidentally, “Flower” devalues the claims of real victims by suggesting they’re lying, enticing perpetrators or otherwise complicit in the power dynamics that lead to assault and molestation. Certainly, the movie sides with the teens, and Winkler’s portrayal of these awful acts offers little sympathy for those who seem to need little encouragement to take advantage of others.

But using these crimes as little more than a plot device ultimately feels like a distraction, and a sleazy one, from the pain and loneliness that drives the teens on screen to try and reclaim their power in such wrongheaded, and eventually, much more destructive ways — at least, if the movie didn’t try to wrap everything up in a shockingly tidy, counterintuitive bow.

“Flower” marks Winkler’s second feature after the 2010 comedy “Ceremony,” which felt to Noah Baumbach what this film does to Gia Coppola’s “Palo Alto,” or Sofia’s “Bling Ring”: a counterpart or alternative mining similar territory but trading substance for effervescence. With a different beginning, “Flower” could have paid cheerful tribute to the liberating powers of teenage romance; with a different ending, it could have captured the melancholy fragility of teen self-discovery.

Instead, audiences get a collection of great performances, led by a truly exceptional one, in search of a script that’s worthy of them in a movie with so much to offer that disappointingly, but bafflingly, seems determined to add up to less than the sum of its parts.

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Independent Spirit Awards: The Complete Winners List (Updating Live)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

“Get Out” emerged as the big winner of the 2018 Independent Spirit Awards, held Saturday on the beach in Santa Monica, Ca.

Jordan Peele’s racially charged thriller — which captivated the country and became an unlikely indie blockbuster — took Best Feature at the annual show put up by Film Independent. Peele also took Best Director.

Top acting prizes went to Frances McDormand for “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and Timothee Chalamet for “Call Me by Your Name.” Best Supporting Male went to Sam Rockwell for “Three Billboards,” and Best Supporting Female went to Allison Janney of “I, Tonya.” That makes it a virtual clean sweep for the latter two actors on the eve of the Academy Awards.

Also Read: Kroll and Mulaney Roast Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Kevin Spacey in Spirit Awards Monologue

Greta Gerwig won Best Screenplay for her coming-of-age darling “Lady Bird,” while Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani took Best First Screenplay for their autobiographical comedy “The Big Sick.”

Notable below-the-line prizes went to Tatiana S. Riegel, who took Best Editing for
“I, Tonya.”  Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, director of photography on “Call Me by Your Name,” won Best Cinematography.

Comedians Nick Kroll and John Mulaney (“Big Mouth,” “Oh, Hello”) returned to host the ceremony, an annual splashy gathering of Hollywood stars and indie film luminaries willing to brave the natural lighting of  a rare daytime awards show.

Also Read: Independent Spirit Awards: In a Stormy Year, It’s Up to Jordan Peele to Keep the Streak Alive

The complete winners list:

“Call Me by Your Name”
“The Florida Project”
“Get Out” *WINNER
“Lady Bird”
“The Rider”

“Ingrid Goes West,” Director Matt Spicer *WINNER 
“Oh Lucy!”
“Patti Cake$”

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – Given to the best feature made for under $500,000. (Award given to the writer, director and producer. Executive Producers are not awarded.)
“A Ghost Story”
“Life and nothing more” *WINNER
“Most Beautiful Island”
“The Transfiguration”

Sean Baker, “The Florida Project”
Jonas Carpignano, “A Ciambra”
Luca Guadagnino, “Call Me by Your Name”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out” *WINNER
Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, “Good Time”
Chloé Zhao, “The Rider”

Greta Gerwig, “Lady Bird” *WINNER
Azazel Jacobs, “The Lovers”
Martin McDonagh, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Jordan Peele, “Get Out”
Mike White, “Beatriz at Dinner”

Kris Avedisian, Kyle Espeleta, Jesse Wakeman, “Donald Cried”
Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani, “The Big Sick” *WINNER
Ingrid Jungermann, “Women Who Kill”
Kogonada, “Columbus”
David Branson Smith, Matt Spicer, “Ingrid Goes West”

Thimios Bakatakis, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Elisha Christian, “Columbus”
Hélène Louvart, “Beach Rats”
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, “Call Me by Your Name” *WINNER
Joshua James Richards, “The Rider”

Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie, “Good Time”
Walter Fasano, “Call Me by Your Name”
Alex O’Flinn, “The Rider”
Gregory Plotkin, “Get Out”
Tatiana S. Riegel, “I, Tonya” *WINNER

Salma Hayek, “Beatriz at Dinner”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” *WINNER
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Shinobu Terajima, “Oh Lucy!”
Regina Williams, “Life and nothing more”

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name” *WINNER
Harris Dickinson, “Beach Rats”
James Franco, “The Disaster Artist”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Robert Pattinson, “Good Time”

Holly Hunter, “The Big Sick”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” *WINNER
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Lois Smith, “Marjorie Prime”
Taliah Lennice Webster, “Good Time”

Nnamdi Asomugha, “Crown Heights”
Armie Hammer, “Call Me by Your Name”
Barry Keoghan, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” *WINNER
Benny Safdie, “Good Time”

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD – Given to one film’s director, casting director and ensemble cast

Director: Dee Rees
Casting Directors: Billy Hopkins, Ashley Ingram
Ensemble Cast: Jonathan Banks, Mary J. Blige, Jason Clarke, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Carey Mulligan

“The Departure”
“Faces Places” *WINNER
“Last Men in Aleppo”

“BPM (Beats Per Minute)”
“A Fantastic Woman” *WINNER
“I Am Not a Witch”
“Lady Macbeth”

Chloé Zhao *WINNER


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‘Ingrid Goes West’ Review: Aubrey Plaza Stalks Elizabeth Olsen in #Blessed Satire

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Let’s start by acknowledging the biggest irony regarding Matt Spicer’s social media satire, “Ingrid Goes West”: As soon as you see it, you’re probably going to post/text/tweet to your friends/family/followers, just to let them know how much you liked it.

And how could you not? Spicer and his co-writer, David Branson Smith, know you. They know all of us, with our perpetually typing fingers and updated emojis and Instagrammed avocado toast. (Don’t pretend you hate avocado toast just because it’s over.)

It wouldn’t be fair to say that twentysomething loner Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) is an everywoman, since her story is, technically, a 21st century update on “Single White Female.” In the film’s introduction, we learn that she’s an emotionally damaged stalker who can’t tell the difference between being befriended and being “friended.”

Watch Video: Aubrey Plaza Stalks Elizabeth Olsen in Trailer for Sundance Hit ‘Ingrid Goes West’

But she’s also suffering, having recently lost her beloved mother. She’s not just isolated, but utterly alone. Every day she sits in her mom’s darkened house, burrowing into an online rabbit hole of beautiful people’s beautiful pictures. Her thumb is constantly moving, scrolling, clicking, liking. There’s a whole world out there, and she’s desperately trying to find a way to join it.

Granted, most people wouldn’t go to the same extremes Ingrid does. When she comes across the enviable Instagram posts of a willowy L.A. photographer named Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), Ingrid uses her inheritance to impulsively move across the country.

She rents a room in Venice Beach from wannabe screenwriter Dan (O’Shea Jackson Jr. of “Straight Outta Compton,” oozing charm) and engineers an “accidental” meet-cute with Taylor. Soon the two of them are BFFs, floating into gallery openings and getting high in Joshua Tree together. For a brief, shining moment, their very existence is a hashtag.

Watch Video: ‘Ingrid Goes West’: Neon Founders Discuss Sundance Bidding War for Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen Instagram Stalker Pic

Any mom with a Facebook account could tell Ingrid that nobody really lives the way they post. But she buys right into the illusion, into all of Taylor’s effusive superlatives and of-the-moment passions. She trades fast food for vegan salads. She wears belted boho maxi dresses instead of sweatpants. And she totally believes Taylor when she off-handedly calls Ingrid her “favorite person ever.” So when a new friend — a hipster designer with lots of social media followers — catches Taylor’s interest, the cold-water shock of reality does not sit well with our deluded heroine.

Plaza deftly keeps us off balance throughout, daring us to relate to Ingrid even as we’re repelled by her. Her rage isn’t spurred by villainy so much as an alienation that feels almost inevitable. But it’s the impeccably cast Olsen who makes the sharpest points, by playing Taylor as a sort of flawlessly-curated hologram. She doesn’t need to actually read Didion or Emerson to post the appropriate pull quotes, and when she enthuses about her leopard-print Clare V. clutch, you can be sure she was paid to do so.

What’s most striking of all, though, is how fully invested she really is. She’s not only selling a faux lifestyle to her fans, but to herself as well. Real problems are pushed out of frame, swiftly replaced with buyable beauty. To quote her quoting everyone else quoting Jimmy Buffett, it’s always five o’clock in Taylor’s life. The worst thing you could ever call her, of course, is what she is to her very core: basic.

Watch Video: O’Shea Jackson Jr. on How His Batman Obsession Landed Him Role in ‘Ingrid Goes West’

We don’t need Taylor’s name or initials to remind us that there are, in fact, real people with millions of real followers enacting the same game of aspirational #SquadGoals right this very minute. But while Spicer’s impressive debut is an undeniably timely film, it also taps into a timeless dilemma.

Because it’s 2017, Taylor is an #Instagoddess. But she might as well be a cheerleader, or a Mean Girl, or a Queen Bee, or any other eternally unattainable embodiment of repressive popularity. Her brother Nicky (an unsettling Billy Magnussen) would be considered a sociopathic monster anywhere else. But between his perfect abs, oversized personality, and the LA setting (plus the impossibly apt fact that Magnussen played Kato Kaelin in “American Crime Story”), he might as well be a reality producer’s dream.

Taylor’s struggling artist husband, the preposterously-named Ezra O’Keefe (Wyatt Russell), is defined primarily by his ostentatious Luddite stance and casual man-bun. So why are these people the epitome of cool? Why is Ingrid so desperate to impress near-strangers who are obscenely entitled and egregiously uninteresting at best?

It’s a good question, and one that most people could probably ask themselves at some point in their lives. Spicer is, of course, pointing out the absurdity of Kardashian Kulture. But really, who wouldn’t be tempted by Taylor’s world, where every blissful, politically-ignorant day is framed by gorgeous desert sunrises and firelit poolside parties?

And how quickly should we rush to judge Ingrid, for wanting to connect with this Pinterest-perfect fantasy? Does she deserve our contempt, or pity, or empathy? Before you decide, count how many seconds it takes to pull out your own phone once the movie ends and the lights come up.

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‘Ingrid Goes West’ Red Band Trailer: Aubrey Plaza Stalks Her Social Media Obsession

Read on: Deadline.

Aubrey Plaza goes crazy-mad in the first red band teaser trailer for Matt Spicer’s Sundance award-winning comedy Ingrid Goes West.
We first meet Ingrid Thorburn (Plaza) obsessing over someone’s wedding pictures on Instagram, before showing up at the reception and pepper spraying the bride because she wasn’t invited.
The film then follows Ingrid who, after the death of her mother and a series of self-inflicted setbacks, escapes a humdrum existence by moving out West to…

Neon Acquires Sundance Award Winner ‘Beach Rats’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Tom Quinn and Tim League’s upstart distribution label Neon has acquired the Sundance hit “Beach Rats.’

The intense cruising drama landed Eliza Hittman the festival’s directing award in the U.S. Dramatic competition at the annual award ceremony held on Saturday.

“Beach Rats” stars British import Harris Dickinson as a lost middle-class youth in Brooklyn with a dying father, a tentative new romance with a young girl and a late-night habit of cruising for older men online. UTA represented the filmmakers in the deal.

Also Read: 2017 Sundance Film Festival Awards: The Complete Winners List (Updating Live)

The film elicited strong reactions during its screenings and subsequent Q&A’s — even former First Daughter Malia Obama saw it during an under-the-radar trip to the festival.

Neon also scooped up the female hip-hop drama “Roxanne, Roxanne” and the Aubrey Plaza-Elizabeth Olsen film “Ingrid Goes West” at Sundnace — both award winners on Saturday for breakthrough performance for star Chante Adams and screenwriting for Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith, respectively.

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‘Ingrid Goes West’ Acquired by Neon at Sundance

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

After a number of competitive bids Tom Quinn and Tim League’s new distribution banner, Neon, have acquired the U.S. distribution rights to Sundance breakout, “Ingrid Goes West,” following the world premiere on Friday night.

Directed by Matt Spicer and starring Aubrey Plaza (“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates,” “Parks and Recreation”) and Elizabeth Olsen (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Martha Marcy May Marlene”).

Based on a script by Spicer and David Branson Smith, the dark comedy also stars O’Shea Jackson Jr., Wyatt Russell, Billy Magnussen, and Pom Klementieff.

Also Read: Power Outage at Sundance Fest Theater, Screenings There Cancelled

“Ingrid Goes West” follows Ingrid Thorburn (Plaza) a mentally unstable young woman who becomes obsessed with Taylor Sloane (Olsen), a social media “influencer” with a seemingly-perfect life. When Ingrid decides to drop everything, and move to the west coast to befriend Taylor in real life, her behavior turns unsettling and increasingly dangerous.

“Ingrid Goes West” marks Spicer’s feature directorial debut. He recently co-wrote Flower, along with Max Winkler who will also direct. The film is a twisted coming-of-age comedy starring Zoey Deutch, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn and Tim Heidecker, which Spicer will also produce alongside Rough House Pictures and Diablo Entertainment. Along with Winkler, Spicer will write the recently announced Rocketeer sequel for Disney.

Star Thrower Entertainment and 141 Entertainment financed and produced.

Producers include Jared Ian Goldman, Star Thrower Entertainment’s Tim and Trevor White, 141 Entertainment’s Adam and Robert Mirels, and Aubrey Plaza.

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Mary Solomon, Rick Rickertsen and Allan Mandelbaum executive produced.

CAA represented the US rights and negotiated the deal.

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‘Ingrid Goes West’ Sundance Review: Aubrey Plaza Is a Social-Media Stalker to Relish

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

On paper, the idea of making a comedy about a mental disturbed stalker does not sound terribly promising. On screen at Sundance, though, Matt Spicer’s “Ingrid Goes West” pulled off that tricky balancing act with style, drawing a rapturous reception in its world premiere at the Library Theatre on Friday night.

“Ingrid Goes West” is part black comedy, part psychological melodrama and part examination of the perils of social media, and it’s a lot of other things to boot. But Spicer has a deft touch with his story, and his cast marvelously fleshes out a bunch of people we care about even though in most cases we know we probably shouldn’t.

Right from the start, Spicer doesn’t make the task easy on himself. He opens by flashing back to an earlier event in the life of Ingrid Thorburn (Aubrey Plaza), a young woman who got obsessed with an Instagram star and ended up in a mental institution after she crashed the woman’s wedding and assaulted the bride. So when she targets another social-media star, Taylor Sloane, a photographer played by Elisabeth Olsen, and promptly cashes in her inheritance and moves to Los Angeles with a bag of cash to be close to Taylor, we know it’s not going to end well.

Also Read: ‘Give Me Future’ Sundance Review: Major Lazer Rocks Havana

Ingrid is delusional and dangerous, but she manages to ingratiate herself into Taylor’s life, even somehow weaseling into BFF territory and garnering a social-media following of her own. Given what we already know about Ingrid, this shouldn’t be fodder for humor, but the world of social-media climbers is so ripe for satire that Spicer manages to get in shots that amuse but also sting.

Olsen is terrific as the young star who projects an idealized life one Instagram pic at a time, not realizing how seriously some people may take all that carefully-crafted fantasy. But Plaza’s performance takes center stage for the entire film, and she makes us ache for this woman even as we’re laughing at her.

Things get worse and worse as Ingrid’s plot unravels and she’s backed into a corner, her only ally a landlord with a Batman obsession. He’s played by an absolutely priceless O’Shea Jackson Jr., who brought the house down with the world-weary line, “Tupac said there’ll be days like this.”

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By the end, “Ingrid Goes West” has turned into a serious (but still wickedly funny) examination of the way we’re all frauds on social media. In a Q&A that followed the premiere, Spicer said, “The film was kind of our way of working out our complex feelings about social media.”

How complex? Well, the conclusion of the film could almost be considered a happy ending for Ingrid – and just as the ending of Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy” was meant to make us uneasy, so does this similarly-themed film leave us with an odd combination of relief and dread.

It’s dangerous territory, to be sure, but Spicer, Plaza and Olsen take us for a wildly entertaining ride through the rough terrain.

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