As the writer/director of Ingrid Goes West and now the writer -- along with Alex McAulay and Max Winkler -- of the teen comic drama Flower (directed by Winkler), Matt Spicer is claiming a niche as the go-to guy for adding drama and especially outrageous moments of danger to satirical contemporary portraits of young people fucking around. In both Ingrid and now Flower, what at first seems like a rather simple dramatic arc -- with the protagonist learning something about life and herself -- crashes into a series of calamitous, shocking events.
Think of Flower as a little like Sofia Coppola's teen-thief satire The Bling Ring with the realism and consequences to bad behavior of Catherine Hardwicke's Thirteen. Zoey Deutch plays 17-year-old Erica, whom we first meet as she's giving head to a cop in his car. She then casually blackmails him. Erica is presented as just acting on instinct, secure on her very own morality plane, and Deutch is exactly the right actor to sell this character.
Erica's life gets complicated when she meets her soon-to-be stepbrother Luke (Joey Morgan), an overweight 18-year-old who's just getting out of rehab. Erica's mother Laurie (Kathryn Hahn) forces Erica to befriend Luke. The first time the two really talk, Erica offers to go down on him, because he's feeling bad and having panic attacks; Erica is transactional and methodical, a girl who has learned a certain way to get along in life and doesn't see a reason to stop. In the end, Winkler's troubled heroes take away the wrong lesson. Flower is messy and imperfect and above all else a star-making role for Deutch, who carries this film from funny to tragic and back again.