Many kudos go out to director Evan Glodell for the whole do-it-yourself filmmaking approach- building his own camera to shoot, starring and even building the car with a working flamethrower in it. The kudos end there though because if not for the interesting color palette, pyrotechnics and dark direction of the plot toward the end, I desperately wanted to walk away from BELLFLOWER several times before the end mercifully came along. Glodell’s film has some interesting moments, but so much of the film is wholly unpleasant and it’s not just because of the violence.
Glodell stars as Woodrow- a nice guy that is building a car with a flamethrower inside of it along with his best friend, Aiden. One night at a bar Woodrow is entrenched in a bug eating contest where he meets the girl of his dreams, Milly. The two hit it off and on their first date go on a long road trip just so they can find and eat the nastiest and most greasy food they can eat. Eventually, the sparks cool off and the relationship goes south in an extreme way leaving Woodrow exploring his deepest and darkest parts of his personality.
I will sit and watch just about anything- I often end up sitting through some of the lowest of low direct to DVD movies out there either on DVD or via Netflix Watch Instantly. I don’t want to say that BELLFLOWER sinks to the depth of direct to DVD affairs but I have to admit it is just as forgettable as some of those movies.
The cinematography is very gritty but does give the film a Very distinct and interesting look. There are times that the camera appears to have a lot of dirt and grime on the lense which is both an interesting filmmaking choice and an annoyance to this particular viewer. My biggest problems with the movie are not in the look or style at which Glodell filmed the movie but at times any small annoyance on top of other aspects I’m not enjoying in regards to the film just highlights my dislikes even more.
I would have to say that for the first hour my interest dipped in and out as I sort of enjoyed the friendship between Woodrow and Aiden, but once the Milly/Woodrow relationship began the characters became- for lack of a better word- annoying. Once I started feeling annoyed with the overall vibe of the characters it was hard to win me back going into the last half of the film. In the last half of the movie Woodrow becomes a much darker and violent presence as opposed to his light likable nice guy persona during the first half and it’s an interesting dynamic but his actions are so rash and violent that he just becomes more unlikable. I feel like you are supposed to feel and connect with his plight and I did on some level at first until the whole psychotic wish fulfillment when Woodrow is nothing more than a flailing childlike serial killer and it seems this is his origin story. The entire finale had an interesting tone but the contrast between that and the beginning just didn’t work for me.
The performances are just as annoying at times- there are some funny and enjoyable moments of people just hanging out and joking around that I enjoyed, but no one in the film acts strong enough to carry the film. Scenes were people throw punches don’t feel real instead just look painfully like untrained actors not prepared to make a punch, shove or baseball bat swing look real or like it would have hurt the person in any way. The only time the acting didn’t bother me was during Woodrow’s psychological break and he becomes more violent-Glodell’s darker side as Woodrow felt more natural and way more interesting, too bad at that point it wasn’t quite enough to win me over.
From my perspective BELLFLOWER had moments of potential and a look to accomplish something gritty and interesting but too many annoying characters, bad acting and missed opportunities had me wavering between falling asleep and just giving up on it altogether. As a film I was actually looking forward to watching it saddens me to say it was a chore to sit through from beginning to end. If there’s one positive thing I can say is that Glodell does easily have potential as a filmmaker with the look and overall direction of BELLFLOWER but hopefully the future ends up being much brighter.