FLOWER Weirdest episode of Parks and Rec ever.

Flower announces its outrageousness in its very first scene, which finds rebellious teen Erica (Zoey Deutch) giving a cop a blowjob at a scenic overlook of the San Fernando Valley. When he refuses to pay her in full, Erica’s best friends (Maya Eshet and Dylan Gelula) storm his cruiser, filming the compromising situation with their phones while Erica explains, “We’re not taking you to court—we’re just taking your money.”

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The girls consider themselves rebels with a cause, delivering vigilante justice and profiting off the unsuspecting creeps in their suburban hamlet—at least when they’re not chugging Slurpees, playing arcade games, and ogling “hot old guy” Will (Adam Scott) at the local bowling alley.

At home, Erica is pissed that her frazzled single mother (Kathryn Hahn) is letting her boyfriend (a phenomenally square Tim Heidecker) move in, along with his son Luke (Joey Morgan), who just got out of rehab and suffers from frequent panic attacks. She’s still hoping her own dad—who’s in jail for “being awesome in a casino”—will return once she bails him out with the thousands of dollars she’s saved up from her, uh, extracurricular activities. But when she discovers that Will, her fortysomething bowling alley crush, is the teacher Luke once accused of molestation, Erica zeroes in on her next target.


I’ve got nothing but jazz hands for films that acknowledge women’s sexuality, but Erica’s is only depicted as either a tool for manipulation or the result of her absent father, and that’s some bullshit.


Director Max Winkler (spawn of the Fonz!) co-wrote Flower’s script with Alex McAulay and Matt Spicer, the man behind last year’s Ingrid Goes West. For Flower, it seems like the trio sourced inspiration from the whip-smart dialogue of Juno, the maximalist dude-bro humor of Superbad, and feminist rhetoric they clearly do not understand. This is most evident in Erica’s unflinching passion for penises (she refers to herself as “the dick whisperer” and keeps a notebook of phallus doodles). When Luke questions her desire to fellate almost any man she meets, she explains, “If a dude goes around eating a bunch of pussy, nobody gives a fuck, nobody calls him a slut. It’s called feminism.”

Erica’s right—she can (consensually) suck infinite dicks, if she wants! But the film positions her as some kind of feminist Robin Hood, blackmailing predatory older men for convoluted moral restitution—and further complicates matters with ongoing themes of statutory rape and “daddy issues.” I’ve got nothing but jazz hands for films that acknowledge women’s sexuality, but Erica’s is only depicted as either a tool for manipulation or the result of her absent father, and that’s some bullshit.

Still, I’ll admit I laughed myself hoarse and even shed some tears during Flower. That’s all thanks to Deutch—she’s like a rainbow, and without her, I doubt director Winkler could’ve pulled off the film’s chameleonic transformation from dark comedy to neo-noir to road movie to millennial romance. Plus, the whole thing looks beautiful; there are some truly fantastic images now permanently seared into my brain, like a stolen car slo-mo crashing into a Joshua tree, and Erica’s pet rat Titty, who she carries around in a cage with a sticker that says “fame whore.” There are also some unexpectedly tender moments between Erica and her mom, along with an achingly sweet poolside slow dance to Angel Olsen.

Flower is a wild rollercoaster ride through pitch-black lows and neon-pink highs—it’s gritty, vulgar, depraved, often hilarious, and periodically charming. But its shock-jock approach to sensitive subjects like child molestation wind up feeling hollow and exploitative, which isn’t a great look for a movie written by three men in 2018.