"Obsessive, Aimless Romance, Sex and Violence"
What You Need To Know:
BELLFLOWER was clearly filmed with passion, but it’s made in a low budget, experimental way that likely will turn off average moviegoers. The message also isn’t clear, leaving MOVIEGUIDE® to wonder: So what? And, why should we care? Worse, of course, is the unrelenting, pagan foul language and the scenes of extreme sex, nudity and violence. There are certainly worse, more depraved Minus 4 movies, but BELLFLOWER is itself too aimless to give it a higher acceptability rating.
(PaPaPa, B, RoRoRo, Ho, LLL, VVV, SSS, NN, AAA, DD, MMM) Very strong, somewhat mixed but fairly amoral, immoral and relatively aimless pagan worldview with little moral center, though the troubled protagonist’s friend tries to help him snap out of his despair, anger and madness, with very strong Romantic feelings, desires and elements; about 161 obscenities, three strong profanities, 14 light profanities, and girl eats crickets in a bar contest created for entertainment purposes; explosions of extreme violence with blood includes man on motorcycle gets hit by a speeding vehicle, man punched in nose, troubled man using homemade flamethrower sets ex-girlfriend’s belongings on fire in her yard, man vandalizes car and breaks window with bat, another man takes bat away and eventually hits vandal on head with bat and apparently kills him, women fight, woman pushes door into woman’s face and gives her a bloody nose, [SPILERS FOLLOW] woman commits suicide by shooting herself in the head, man stabs or hurts woman somehow (it’s not shown how exactly he does it), and he exits his house with lots of blood on his T-shirt, and said woman exits house with bloodied clothes and hugs her assailant, her ex-boyfriend; very strong sexual content includes graphic scenes of depicted fornication and apparent rape; shots of upper female nudity and rear and upper male nudity; scenes of alcohol use and drunkenness, plus man drinks whiskey while driving; smoking and injured man smokes marijuana in one scene; and, betrayal, lying, uncontrollable anger, despair, madness, young adults are aimless and appear to be somewhat lazy (movie never shows where they get their money to live, eat, drink, and drive), and lovers are broken people with no positive foundation.
BELLFLOWER is a very, very low budget independent movie about several aimless young adults living in Southern California. The filmmakers reported at a special screening for the movie that they only spent $17,000. There is extreme foul language throughout, and the second half descends into a graphic explosion of sex, betrayal, madness, and violence that seems to serve as a warning: Don’t let this happen to you!
Inspired by the MAD MAX and ROAD WARRIOR movies with Mel Gibson, best friends Woodrow and Aiden spend their time building flamethrowers and muscle cars based on the movies. Woodrow is kind of shy, however, so Aiden urges him to come out of his shell and start talking to girls.
One evening, Woodrow meets Milly, a vivacious blond, in a bar where he challenges her to the bar’s cricket eating contest. Milly confidently eats a handful, but Woodrow can barely eat one without spitting it out right away. Woodrow and Milly hit it off, and Woodrow asks her for a date. Woodrow shows up at Milly’s place, and in another challenge, they decide to drive all the way to Texas to eat at the worst dive Woodrow ever saw, a roadside diner that Woodrow and Aidan passed on their way to California from Wisconsin.
The drive turns out to be fairly romantic and funny, except for Woodrow introducing Milly to the special whiskey stash he rigged near the engine that provides whiskey to the passenger seat. Fortunately for them, there’s no accident while Woodrow drinks and drives. On the way back to California, Woodrow ends up exchanging his car for a motorcycle in yet another spontaneous decision. Milly warns Woodrow, however, that she probably will end up hurting him.
While Woodrow and Milly are driving to and from Texas, his friend Aiden starts developing a crush on Milly’s friend, Courtney. They talk but nothing seems to come of it. Aiden and Courtney wait impatiently, however, for their friends to return. When they do return, Woodrow and Aiden resume their goofy goal of building a flamethrower and building the Medusa, the best Mad Max muscle car that shoots flames out the back. Soon, Woodrow and Milly start sleeping together, and she eventually moves into his rundown apartment.
Eventually, Milly seems to grow a little bit distant from Woodrow, especially because Aiden drags him away to work on the flamethrower and Mad Max car. One day, Woodrow catches Milly in bed with her former roommate, Mike. Woodrow storms out, drives off on his motorcycle and gets hit by a car.
Woodrow survives the accident, but he becomes a different person – more sullen and angry. At one point, he tells Aiden that the doctors say he’s suffered brain damage, but there’s no confirmation to that other than Woodrow’s behavior. Unknown to Aiden, Woodrow starts having a torrid affair with Courtney.
Aiden tries to comfort his friend. In fact, while he is convalescing, he even finishes the Mad Max car and gives it to Woodrow as a gift. He’s still trying to cheer Woodrow. Aiden also advises Woodrow to forget Milly, saying that she’s not worth torturing himself. None of this, not even Courtney’s romance with him, lessens Woodrow’s growing anger at Milly, not to mention the emotional pain he still feels. Woodrow is now set on a path toward despair, anger, madness, and violence.
BELLFLOWER was clearly made with passion and care, but if you don’t like deliberately washed-out, out-of-focus cinematography, quirky camera movements and fancy camera angles, this is not the movie for you. The characters are sometimes endearing and even innocent, despite the frequent foul language, but things take a turn for the worst in the second half. Only Woodrow’s friend, Aiden, maintains his appealing qualities, though he does end up getting caught in the violent vortex Woodrow, Milly and Mike create. What’s truly bizarre is how he disappears from the movie’s ending after he violently defends Woodrow’s Mad Max car from an angry Mike in one scene shot at night.
Another problem with BELLFLOWER is the weak message it seems to convey. This story of love gone wrong lacks a strong moral, spiritual foundation to direct viewers to some higher meaning. Hence, the average viewer is liable to ask: So what? And, Why should I care about what happens to these characters?
Finally, the movie seems to take pleasure in showing viewers its more outrageous scenes, which include extreme sex, nudity and graphic violence. This titillated the pagan viewers attending the screening. Another, related problem is that, instead of idolizing Mel Gibson’s heroic character in the MAD MAX movies, the male leads in BELLFLOWER idolize the villain in THE ROAD WARRIOR, Humongous. No wonder these two guys are so screwed up! And, no wonder BELLFLOWER turns out ultimately to be unsatisfying.
There are certainly worse, more depraved Minus 4 movies, but BELLFLOWER proves to be too aimless to give it a higher acceptability rating.
The Good News is that every person can avoid an aimless life by always following the Bible, which is the very Word of God. As Psalm 119:105 in the Hebrew Scriptures tells us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” This is also why we follow Jesus Christ and His Gospel, because He is the Word Made Flesh (John 1:14) and “the true light that enlightens every person” (John 1:8).