Broken Hearts Are for Pussies: Bellflower

08/04/2011 4:00 AM |

Bellflower
Directed by Evan Glodell

“Propane is for pussies.” So declares a character in the combustible Bellflower, which is fueled by blood, fire, whiskey and diesel. In his feature debut, writer-director Evan Glodell roughens his dippy romantic banalities with a post-apocalyptic aesthetic. (Because break-ups and doomsdays share that “end of the world” feeling.) Bellflower Southbys its Sundanceness, Texifies its Utah-grown clichés— it Mad Maxes them. Woodrow (Glodell) and Milly (Jessie Wiseman) meet cute in a SoCal bar by competing in a grasshopper-eating contest. “I’m building a flamethrower,” he tells her, subverting the sweetness with badassery-aside from the homemade flamethrower, there’s also a muscle car that shoots fire from its exhaust pipes-and foreshadowing what’s to come: fuller versions of the gruesome flashes glimpsed in pre-credits jump shots, the goofy charm lost in sad violence.

With no discernible employment but plenty of disposable income for auto accessories and booze (the movie is thick with hard-drinking aimlessness), Woodrow and Milly impetuously embark on a quick road trip in a car retrofitted with a whiskey dispenser, which they later trade in for a road-warrior motorcycle. They’re wildly impulsive kids, endearingly youthful; the actors help to elicit our sympathy with their mastery of the giggly, high-spirited rapport of courtship. Skipping past this love affair’s middle, the movie moves on to multiple betrayals, and becomes slightly unbalanced, with digressions into subjectively shot fantasies born of possible brain damage, possible dysthymia, including episodes of sexual assault, gun violence, and hostile tattooing. These dark imaginings feel like coping mechanisms; deep down, Bellflower is a movie about dealing, or not, with a break-up, like Annie Hall or Eternal Sunshine. But it handles depression through destruction, escaping into the comforts of action movie tropes: the unambiguous heroism, male chauvinism, cool hardware and simple morality and power structures sorely lacking from real life. Broken hearts are for pussies.

Opens August 5