January 10, 2012

Justify My Netflix: Bellflower

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)


Today's movie: Bellflower, 2011 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this sounded like something right up my alley, a "mumblecore meets Mad Max" indie about a couple of friends in that rockabilly/car-customization slacker crowd so prevalent in southern California, who out of boredom decide to build the souped-up tank-car that would let them be badasses in a post-apocalyptic society, and how this innocent decision ends up eventually devolving into actual apocalyptic death and violence on the part of everyone involved.

The reality: Wow, amazing! And that's because the recap above doesn't nearly do justice to the complex, moving film this turns out to be. Because ultimately Bellflower is an astute character study, easy to lose sight of amidst all the homemade flamethrowers and the like, about the kinds of James-Dean lumpen-proletariats who are attracted to this kind of scene, and how their actions are mostly based on some pretty simple motivations but with a lot of complications and shades of gray thrown into the mix. Now, granted, it takes a little warming up to get to this place of complexity; but you should absolutely stick in there until things start getting heated up with Jessie Wiseman, playing trainwrecky new girlfriend Milly to our main character Woodrow (played by Evan Glodell, also the writer, director, and creator of all the fantastical mechanical devices seen in the movie), because it's the conflicts created by this drifter and Bad Girlfriend that really make things start spiraling out of control. The movie is not without its flaws, but I have to say that I've rarely seen a film debut that is this confident, original and convincing, and I admit that it has stuck with me strongly since first seeing it a month ago. It comes highly recommended, if for no other reason than to experience the kind of script complexity that's almost impossible to get across in a small write-up like this.

Strangest piece of trivia: Glodell also built a one-of-a-kind camera to shoot this film, taking a modern digital camera and then adding vintage parts, bellows and old Soviet lenses.

Worth your time? Absolutely

Filed by Jason Pettus at 8:49 AM, January 10, 2012. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |