Editor’s note: this review was originally published on January, 2011 as a Sundance Film Festival review.
When I first walked out of BELLFLOWER, I was transformed into that cranky film critic you’ve once read about. A Sundance film about a young hipster who gets his heart broken over a girl? I saw that last year when it was called BLUE VALENTINE, and I even saw it the year before that when it was called (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. I’ve even seen it on VHS, because I wasn’t born when ANNIE HALL was released in theaters. But what hit me over my big, stubborn head is this: BELLFLOWER is a visual spectacle of real independent cinema. Sure, the story isn’t original, but my job is to report if I like what I saw, and dear reader, I’m here to tell you this: BELLFLOWER has blossomed into one of my favorite flicks of Sundance 2011.
BELLFLOWER follows two young hipsters, Woodrow (Evan Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), who live in a less-than-safe-neighborhood in a world where nobody has to work - Never-Never Land for the baby boom generation. They spend their time drinking heavy amounts of alcohol and building flamethrowers and MAD MAX-inspired cars just in case a global apocalypse happens. If a war broke out, you wouldn’t want to be caught against their gang, “Mother Medusa.” During a night of binge drinking at a local bar, Woodrow meets the rebellious Milly (Jessie Wiseman). They soon embark on a short adventure together, and gallop straight towards that big colorful love rainbow. Hold the brakes, though - this is not a love story. In fact, this is a tale of violent revenge. Unlike BLUE VALENTINE and (500) DOS, BELLFLOWER is told in a linear order. We do have flashbacks during key moments in the film, but these flashbacks cut with the current situation only make the present all the more disturbing. Evan Glodell is the perfect example of true independent cinema auteur. He not only wrote, directed, starred, produced, and edited BELLFLOWER, he also built the cars, the flame thrower, and one-of-a-kind camera to shoot the film with. Heads up, James Cameron, Glodell is closely following your footsteps. I can’t fathom what this guy could do with a budget and complete freedom. Darling newcomer Jessie Wiseman is a natural on screen. Seeing how much the camera loves her, it’s hard to believe this is her first film. Wiseman’s Milly is very sweet and beautiful, but could take your head off if she had to. She’s every man’s dark, twisted fantasy. When you take a look around at all the trash that gets made, giving up hope on Hollywood seems to be the unpleasant choice. Call it a cinematic apocalypse. Then in comes Glodell, grabbing the wheel of creativity to steer us back in his Medusa to a land of new hope.